“O Barco / The Boat”


Grada Kilomba is poetic disobedience, the permanent conjugation in all tenses and arts of the verb “to decolonise”. Grada Kilomba is a Portuguese multidisciplinary artist, author of the emblematic book “Plantation Memories: Episodes of Everyday Racism”. She is one of the Resident Artists for the years 2021-2022 of BoCA.

O Barco/The Boat is an installation by the artist Grada Kilomba, comprised of 140 blocks forming the shape of the bottom of a ship, a detailed drawing of the space that was created to accommodate the bodies of millions of Africans enslaved by European empires.

In western imaginary, a boat is easily associated with glory, freedom and with maritime expansion described as “discoveries”. Yet, in the artist’s view, “a country with millions of people cannot be discovered”, neither “one of the longest, most horrible chapters of the history of humanity – slavery – can be erased.”

This first large-scale installation by Grada Kilomba, which opened by the River Tagus, at Praça do Carvão do MAAT during BoCA, now travels to Somerset House, in London. The work invites the public to enter a garden of memories, where poems rest over blocks of burnt wood, recalling forgotten stories and identities. What stories are told? Where are they told? How are they told? And by who are they told? These are some of the questions that arise as we enter the installation.

On the 16th of January takes place the opening performance, made with different music and dance afro-descendant local artists, with music production by Kalaf Epalanga. O Barco/The Boat becomes a place of recognition, a garden of memories and of contemplation of the future.


Commission and production: BoCA – Biennial of Contemporary Arts
Co-production: maat – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden
Production support: ArtWork
Presentation: Somerset House
Support: Goodman Gallery

“O Barco/The Boat” is a project commissioned by BoCA Biennial of Contemporary Arts 2021



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