Grada Kilomba: Speaking the Unspeakable

Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
17 Mar 2018 - 14 Apr 2018

Grada Kilomba, Table of Goods, 2017, Installation view at MAAT, Lisbon 2017, Photo by Bruno Lopes

Grada Kilomba, Table of Goods, 2017, Installation view at MAAT, Lisbon 2017, Photo by Bruno Lopes

Colonialism is a wound that has never been properly treated […] An infected wound that always hurts and sometimes bleeds – Grada Kilomba

Grada Kilomba will present new work that brings together storytelling, theatre, performance and choreography to repurpose the ‘white cube’ as a space for elevating the stories of silenced voices. ‘Unspeakable’ in this context refers to the trauma of colonialism.

Speaking the Unspeakable is Grada Kilomba’s first solo exhibition on the African continent and at Goodman Gallery. As a woman artist from the African Diaspora who has recently had two solo museum shows and featured at the 1-54 art fair in Marrakech, this is a significant moment for South African audiences to experience her subversive and singular work on decoloniality.

Curated by Lara Koseff and with creative production by Moses Leo Speaking the Unspeakable features new work that combines myriad art forms and genres – storytelling, theatre, performance and choreography – to explore several means to speak the unspeakable. In this context, Kilomba uses the term unspeakable as a metaphor for trauma, and the colonial wound, explaining how, ‘colonialism is a wound that has never been properly treated, an infected wound that always hurts, and sometimes bleeds.’

Kilomba (b. 1968, Lisbon, Portugal) is an interdisciplinary artist and writer living in Berlin – with roots in São Tomé e Príncipe, Angola, and Portugal. Her work draws on the repressed history of colonialism and
its legacy on memory, trauma, gender, and the conceptualisation of knowledge and narrative. ’Who can speak?’ ‘What can we speak about?’ and ‘What happens when we speak?’ are constant and fragile questions in Kilomba’s body of work.

Kilomba studied Clinical Psychology and Psychoanalysis at the ‘ISPA – Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada’ in Lisbon. There, she worked in the psychiatry department with war survivors from Angola and Mozambique. Recognised for her academic excellence, she received a Ph.D. fellowship from the German Heinrich Böll Foundation where she attained a Doctorate in Philosophy (summa cum laude) from the Freie Universität Berlin 2008. Her work is best known for her subversive writing and her unconventional use of artistic practices, in which she ‘gives body, voice and image to her own writings’, and brings texts into performance – using a variety of formats.


Goodman Gallery Johannesburg
163 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, Johannesburg, 2193






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