O Barco/The Boat is an installation by artist Grada Kilomba, composed of 140 blocks which form the silhouette of the bottom of a ship and carefully draw the space created to accommodate the bodies of millions of Africans, enslaved by European empires. In the Western imaginary, a boat is easily associated with glory, freedom and maritime expansion, described as “discoveries” but, in the artist’s view, “a continent with millions of people cannot be discovered” nor “one of the longest and most horrendous chapters of humanity – Slavery – can be erased”.
This first large-scale installation by Grada Kilomba, which stretches 32 meters along the Tagus river, invites the audience to enter a garden of memory, in which poems rest on burnt wooden blocks, recalling forgotten stories and identities. What stories are told? Where are they told? How are they told? And told by whom? These are questions that arise when entering this installation.
Grada Kilomba inaugurates this work with a performance, in three acts, in which several generations of Afro-descendant communities are the central interpreters, with the musical production of Kalaf Epalanga, O Barco/The Boat becomes a place of acknowledgement, a garden of memory and contemplation of the future.
Talk with the artist
Commission and production: BoCA
Co-production: maat – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, Kunsthalle Baden-Baden
Partnership: Câmara Municipal de Lisboa/EGEAC, as part of the programme Lisboa na Rua’21
Production support: ArtWorks