On a cool summer day in East Williamsburg, the Amant art campus debuted its showcase of the Berlin-based artist Grada Kilomba’s nuanced, mixed-media work, Heroines, Birds, and Monsters.
Kilomba’s first show in the US captures the struggle between the world’s colonial past and present repercussions, and will be on exhibit from July 10th to October 31st. Featuring a writing piece, 3 short films, photographs, and a sculpture installation, Kilomba’s clever use of varied artistic avenues adds nuance and depth to the experience of her work. Table of Goods (2017), the first installation piece, is a powerful sculpture symbolizing the transatlantic slave trade: a pyramid of soil “entombed” with handfuls of sugar, cacao, and coffee, with unlit candles circling the base of the work. This “visual representation of centuries of forced labor and death” also represents the silent voices buried under the slave trade, and evokes the importance of memory: we must remember so we do not repeat the mistakes in our history. In the left room, a dramatic literary work projected against the walls of a dark room, features 3 themes of discrimination: “while I walk,” “while I speak,” and “while I write.” An emotive experience through every word, these two quotes moved me most:
“I am not discriminated against because I am different. I become different because I am discriminated against.”
“I write almost as an obligation to find myself. I become the author and the authority on my own history”
Finally, the exhibition’s main installation, World of Illusions (2019) brings to life three Greek myths, also represented in photograph form in the earlier gallery. Narcissus and Echo, Oedipus the King, and Antigone, are re-staged through music, dance, and mine in the West African oral storytelling figure, the griot. Kilomba’s re-interpretation of these classic stories ‘expose unresolved tragedies of the postcolonial condition through a psychoanalytical lens.”
Through all her works displayed at Amant, one overarching theme shines through the narratives: revealing the silenced voices lost in our colonial past. If the trauma these voices hold aren’t studied and put to rest properly, our history will continue to be plagued by cyclical violence. Kilomba’s work is the perfect opening exhibit for the Amant gallery, whose mission is to slow down the artistic process through the experimentation of different creative mediums, and focusing on long-term collaborations in order to allow the artists to fully engage and create. A breeding ground for inspiration and dialogue, Amant and Grada Kilomba are together telling the stories that need to be told.