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Waters of Kalunga: sea and memory in Aline Motta’s, Rosana Paulino’s and Grada Kilomba’s artworks

This project focuses on the memories of the colonial past and the echoes in contemporaneity, or what we call coloniality (QUIJANO, 2005; MIGNOLO, 2010). We intend to reflect on how these memories are evoked and presented in the artworks of contemporary artists from the Global South. In this project, we select the Brazilian artists Rosana Paulino and Aline Motta, and the Portuguese artist, with roots in São Tomé and Príncipe, Grada Kilomba. In this study, we propose to remember the colonial past through the sea, an element in which can also be identified as Kalunga.

During colonization, black men and women were brought as enslaved from African countries to American countries across the sea, and countless bodies were thrown into the Atlantic waters during these crossings. The ocean carries an idea of forgetfulness: what is thrown into the sea is to be forgotten. However, Castiel Vitorino Brasileiro (2020) reminds us that the sea is, first of all, a world of memories. She tells us that the Atlantic Ocean was recounted as a place of forgetfulness by the colonial narrative. In this study, we intend to decolonize this narrative in an attempt to reflect on the sea as a space full of stories and memories.

Since the sea is an essential element to help us visualize the violence of colonization and the African diaspora, one of the proposals of this project is to create a relationship between the sea and violence as a long-term process (BRAUDEL, 2016; GROSFOGUEL, 2016). This colonial violence persists and presents itself in contemporary times in the form of coloniality. The sea shows us this continuity and is an element present in the contemporary artworks that we will study.

In order to rescue and recreate ancestral memories that were fragmented by the diaspora in colonization, we will present in this research the artworks of three black women who seek in their poetics to produce images and narratives that conflict with the official history and the colonial imaginary. The sea and the water are common elements in Rosana Paulino’s, Aline Motta’s and Grada Kilomba’s artworks. They have a contemporary production that questions the black representation in art history and makes us reflect on stories and memories that, throughout history, were attempted to be erased.