MA from Le Fresnoy : Studio national des arts contemporains, Tourcoing, France; BA Anthropology / Comparative Religions from McGill University, Montréal, Canada.
In her recent work Kapwani Kiwanga revisits her earlier training in social sciences and elaborates research projects in which she occupies the role of a researcher. Her methodology includes fashioning systems and establishing protocols as in scientific experimentation to delineate lenses through which one can observe culture and its characteristic propensity toward mutation.
Her projects materialise as installations, video, sound and performance. Afrofuturism, anti-colonial struggle and its memory, belief systems, vernacular and popular culture are but some of the research areas which inspire her practice.
For the exhibition Unravelings Kapwani Kiwanga will be screening her film The Sun Ra Repatriation Project from 2009.
How do you fight rascisme, the feeling of being a stranger and not belonging within the society that you are supposed to be a part of. For legendary jazz musician Sun Ra (1934-1993) the solution was to take ownership of the alienation and to make it his own. He created a mystical tale about his origin in which he claimed that he had arrived on Earth from Saturn. In this way he created a counter-narrativ around a past that still influences formerly enslaved people today; a narrativ that also visualized a possible future in which racial stigmas had been eliminated.
The film Sun Ra Repatriation Project follows Kapwani Kiwanga’s attempt to return Sun Ra’s remains to their original home: Saturn. Kiwanga travels to the US and France to meet experts and scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Observatoire de Paris in order for them to help her with formulating the astronomical aspects of the project. She asks the French police to create a composite portrait of Sun Ra from testimonies of those who knew him. The sketch is sent into deep space in 2009. Kapwani later arranges that a radiotelescope in California observes Saturn for any possible extraterrestrial radio transmission from Sun Ra.