Reclaiming Legitimacy through Performance

Postmemory, Blackness, and Belonging

  • Kathryn Sanchez University of Wisconsin-Madison
Keywords: Grada Kilomba, slave ship, performance, racism, postmemory, wake work


Grada Kilomba’s performance-installation O barco/The Boat (2021) is a denunciation of the legacies of colonialism, racism, and social injustices in contemporary society. In these times of perpetual crises, race crimes, discrimination, and the mediation of collective trauma, this study understands how the performance of Blackness, centered around an ever-present past evoked by a slave ship hold in Grada Kilomba’s multidimensional art installation, constructs a forum to confront the silences inherent in the inequalities of power and privilege in Portuguese history. I  examine how performance “in the wake” (Sharpe) is a powerful tool to address these perpetuated silences, feelings of loss and vulnerability, and the aftermath of colonial violence. I discuss the way in which performance can be a powerful tool to celebrate, verbalize, and embody racial difference and expose the normalization of racism while forging a new conceptualization of the Black Atlantic.