New Creation – Installation and performance

“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.”

The first large-scale installation by Grada Kilomba extends along 32 meters of the river , in maat’s Praça do Carvão, inviting the audience 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. 

Grada Kilomba debuts this work with a three-act performance, in which different generations of afro-descendant communities are the leading figures, with music 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: ArtWorks
Partners: Câmara Municipal de Lisboa / EGEAC, in the frame of Lisboa na Rua’21


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


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