Plantation Memories, 2018
“It is not that we have not been speaking, but rather that our voices, through racism, have been systematically silent. This impossibility illustrates how speaking and silencing emerge as an analogous project. The act of speaking is like a negotiation between those who speak and those who listen, that is, between the speaking subjects and their listeners. Listening is, in this sense, the act of authorization towards the speaker. One can (only) speak, when one’s voice is listened. And those who are listened, are also those who belong, as well as those who are not listened, become those who ‘do not belong’.”
The room is dark. The only people visible are the four actors sitting side by side on stage, holding books in their hands. The reading Plantation Memories, which Grada Kilomba staged for film in 2015, focuses entirely on the voices of the performers, the text and the act of reading aloud from her eponymous book, published in 2008. In it, the psychologist and artist psychoanalytically processes episodes of everyday racism, reflecting on the connections between colonialism and trauma as well as on the violent nature of racist thinking.
In her book, Kilomba analyses the colonial logics of exoticisation, othering and racist bullying of Black people and people of colour. In doing so, she deconstructs the functioning of White dominance by analysing the exclusion mechanisms of (academic) knowledge production – and thus revealing who is able to speak and write in the first place. At the same time, she explores processes of transformation and healing, focusing on subjectification through speaking, writing and community care.
Grada Kilomba (born in 1968 in Lisbon, Portugal / lives and works in Portugal and Germany) is an interdisciplinary artist, writer and theorist whose work explores memory, trauma, gender and postcolonialism, questioning concepts like knowledge, power and violence. She translates texts into images, installations and movements, using such genres as staged readings, videography and photography. Her goal is to disrupt white narratives and find new decolonised words and images. Her work has been featured at renowned exhibitions. In 2012, she was a visiting professor for gender and postcolonial studies at the Humboldt University in Berlin.
Foto: © Filipe Avila
Plantation Memories, 2018
Length: 14:14 min.
Script, editing, production, sound design: Grada Kilomba
Cast: Martha Fessehatzion, Moses Leo, Michael Edode Ojake, Araba Walton, Sara-Hiruth Zewde