Art@Site Kiluanji Kia Henda Redefining The Power, with Miguel Prince Angola

Kiluanji Kia Henda


Redefining The Power, with Miguel Prince

Redefining The Power, with Miguel Prince
Kiluanji Kia Henda: I decided to search for the empty pedestals that belonged to those monuments and to occupy this void with representations of the optimistic era we were living in, as an opposition to the glorious colonial past. It was exactly ten years after the war had ended in Angola. The city was starting to witness a cultural re-birth, that I sought to express in the form of living monuments. The idea was to invite some crazy friends who live in a kind of constant performance to climb on the pedestals that were empty for more than thirty years, and have the freedom to perform whatever they want.
I used to visit very often the Fortaleza de São Miguel (a fort built by the Portuguese in the 15th century) in Luanda where all the Portuguese monuments were taken after being removed from their pedestal.
“In Redefining The Power, I aimed to replace the colonial heroes (like Shunnuz Fiel, Miguel Prince, Pamina Sebastião, Didi Fernandes) and the wymbols with something extremely alive: people that I would consider as my cultural heroes – everyone from a poet to a gay rights defender. I think every city should have empty pedestals that are customised regarding our passions, instead of having representations in cold stone of dead people who are mostly connected with wars or political power, and who no one really cares about today.”
Kiluanji Kia Henda (b. 1979, Luanda, Angola) is a conceptual artist who seeks ways to reconcile cultures. His postcolonial practice repeatedly raises the dark history of today’s successful countries whose wealth was built on colonialism. The monument is Kia Henda’s subject of investigation. In Angola, his birth country, many statues of colonizers are still found in public space. Through photography, a medium considered to be documentary, the artist points history in a new direction by placing Angolans on pedestals. Reoccupying the position of power instead of rewriting history, he comes toith the trauma of colonization.
In Redefining The Power, I aimed to replace the colonial heroes and the war symbols with something extremely alive, people that I would consider as my cultural heroes, from a poet to a gay rights defender. I think every city should have empty pedestals that could be customized regarding our passions, instead of having representations in cold stone of dead people that no one really cares about today and most of them are connected with wars or political power. The emptiness of those pedestals was also a metaphor of the absence of a reflection about the history and the society we were living in during the turbulent years of the civil war.
The creation of Homem Novo (New Man), was one of the aims during the socialist period in Angola just after the independence. Today in South Africa there is a popular new movement called Rhodes Must Fall, and it basically consists in taking down all the monuments and changing the names of streets that are somehow still a celebration of the colonial period. This happened in Angola as well, mainly in Luanda, in the first years of the independence.
This project does not intend to deal with post-colonialism, because it’s not a revivalism of the colonial period, but yes, it is the new philosophy and political posture of the post-independence society, in opposition of what was proposed and inherited by the colonial power. There's always been a discussion on ‘what the hell are we going to do with those colonial monuments?’. I consider those monuments clandestine citizens with expired visas: they should be deported to their place of origin after paying the fine for illegal permanence. Or it would be a more clever decision to do an exchange with some important objects of art stolen from Africa and kept by many western museums. That would be fair.
I am starting a new research on the Cold War and its roots and effects in Africa, specifically in Angola. It will take some years but I am not in hurry, it’s a long term. Besides that, I am still developing an ongoing project called A City Called Mirage which is more connected with the problem of the architecture and housing of today, the ability to build a city but at same time to create a desert within. If we add up all the squares meters of the empty cities and neighbourhoods worldwide, we are in a presence of gigantic concrete desert that can compete with the Sahara. Regarding the book there isn´t any date for the publication, only Gerhard Steidl can give an exact date, but I believe it will be very soon.
What significance do exploitation and oppression have in the modern culture of memory? How is this shaped by internal and external colonization? Can monuments not only be razed, but revised? Two works on historical remembrance and the monuments debate.
With Redefining the Power, Kiluanji Kia Henda presents works from his long-term photography series Homen Nuovo (New Man) on the fate of colonial monuments in Luanda. Most statues celebrating discovery,” conquest, enslavement and domination were already damaged or removed in Luanda during the civil war period (1975 to 2002). A city with empty pedestals represents a time of transition, a dangerous but productive uncertainty in terms of collective memory and imagining the future. In his photographic works, Kiluanji Kia Henda stages on these pedestals pivotal figures from Angola’s contemporary cultural life and underground, but also from the African diaspora in Portugal.
Kiluanji Kia Henda (1979) is a photographer and visual artist. His photographs grapple with colonial history and perceptions of modernism in Angola. He lives and works in Luanda, Angola, and Lisbon, Portugal. Henda has participated in several residency programs and exhibitions. In 2012 he won the National Award for Culture and the Arts from the Angolan Ministry of Culture.
Kiluanji Kia Henda: In my family photography has been always a passion, even though none of us has worked with it professionallyhad the luck to have a studio at home when I was a teenager, that belonged to my older brother Cassiano Bamba, with equipment that he bought in Moscow when he was studying there. I had some curiosity but I was not into the visual art universe. As an artist, at the beginning I was more connected with music and I also worked in theatre, but when I had the opportunity to hang out with the visual artists from downtown Luanda, it brought me back to the field of photography.
Kiluanji Kia Henda (born 1979) is a photographer and visual artist. His photographs grapple with colonial history and perceptions of modernism in Angola.
Recent exhibitions include: Experimental Station: Research and Artistic Phenomena, Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (CA2M), Madrid, 2011; Other Possible Worlds, NGBK, Berlin, 2011; 2nd Luanda Triennale, Luanda, 2010; and 29th São Paulo Biennial, São Paulo, 2010. Henda lives and works in Luanda.
Is contemporary Africanrt the next big thing?
“African artists have now taken and secured their seat at the dinner table, invited or not!”
The media's huge interest"contemporary African art" led us to the idea of forwarding journalists questions about "the new Hype" to artists, curators, directors, or advisors and ask for their personal opinion on what they think of it.