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Grada Kilomba

The Desire Project

Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg,

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Grada Kilomba
The Desire Project
8 min 37 s
Format & Technical

Three-channel video HD in black and white, in loop, with one sound channel, two printed impressions and a shrine installation


Kirsty Wesson

In her video installation The Desire Project, Grada Kilomba uses the written word as the only visual element, accompanied by a rhythmical drumming as a metaphorical voice, indicating the emergence of a speaker who has been historically silenced by colonial narratives.

The work is comprised of three films representing three chronological moments: “While I Walk”, “While I Speak” and “While I Write”. In each film white text appears against a black background in time with a soundtrack of rhythmical drumming, composed by Moses Leo. The drumming is used instead of the usual voice over, becoming a form of narrative and recalling the African tradition of storytelling.

Kilomba foregrounds the importance of writing in the work which, she explains, is “almost an obligation to find myself”.

As Gabi Ngcobo, writes “In her visual work, Kilomba exits the book form by stretching out pages, spilling them out and extending them into the field of vision”.

In her strong text, Kilomba plays with the concept of memory as a theory of forgetting: “one cannot simply forget and one cannot avoid remembering” she writes. Before entering the video installation, one passes a shrine dedicated to the ancestor Anastácia, an emancipated enslaved African woman whose mouth was sealed, to implement a sense of fear and spechlessness. For Kilomba, Anastácia not only embodies the conflictuous triangle Africa-Europe-America, but also raises the pertinent questions of ‘who can speak?’ and ‘what can we speak about?’ and ‚‘what happens when we speak?’

This work was commissioned for the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo – Incerteza viva [Live Uncertainty], 2016.


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