Kapwani Kiwanga

Kapwani Kiwanga (1978, Hamilton) is Franco-Canadian. She lives and works in
Paris. Kiwanga studied Anthropology and Comparative Religion at McGill University in
Montreal and Art at l’École des Beaux-Arts de Paris. She received the Zurich Art Prize (2022), the Marcel Duchamp Prize (2020), the Frieze Artist Award (2018), and the Sobey Art Award (2018). Kiwanga’s work traces the pervasive impact of power asymmetries by placing historic narratives in dialogue with contemporary realities, the archive, and tomorrow’s
possibilities. Her work is research-driven, instigated by marginalized or forgotten histories, and articulated across a range of materials and mediums, which include sculpture, installation, photography, video, and performance. She is represented by Galerie Poggi, Paris, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and London, and Galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin.

Sound installation, 2007

Kapwani Kiwanga’s sound installation, Tongue, introduces orality in all its humanity. English-speaking Kiwanga asks her brother to teach her Swahili proverbs. She repeats them with hesitation and with an English accent. This work emphasizes teaching, sharing, and mutation, but also discusses the global condition of second-generation migrants. With transmission comes translation.
Sound installation, 2020

In the history of protest songs, Nina Simone’s Mississippi Goddam stands as an important paradigm. It was first recorded in 1963, after an act of racial violence. On 15 September 1963, four girls were killed when white supremacists planted dynamite beneath the side steps of the African-American 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama (USA). Simone wrote Mississippi Goddam a few hours later. Mississippi Goddam is characterized by an insistent, upbeat rhythm, in stark contrast to its sobering lyrics, which refer to racist incidents taking place throughout the country — especially in the American South, where Jim Crow ruled, and the most severe incidents of racial violence occurred. After the commercial release of the song, radio stations refused to play it and returned the singles to the record company vandalized. The word “Goddam” was censored from television and radio broadcasts, replaced with beeping sounds. During public performances, Simone would change the lyrics to reference local racial violence incidents, for instance, by substituting Tennessee for Selma, and by singing “Selma made me lose my rest” in Montgomery, Alabama, in March 1965. This was a reference to the police violence against thousands of people participating in the historic Selma-to-Montgomery march. Here, the sound piece is a new arrangement of Mississippi Goddam, performed by musicians Lauriane Ghils, Nabou Claerhout, and Marta Gonzalez, and coordinated by Bianca Sallons.