Excerpt from press release
Kiluanji Kia Henda (°1979, Luanda, Angola) explores issues of today’s society in a unique and engaging manner, encouraging critical thinking. His work encompasses a wide range of themes such as politics, identity and the complex relationship between Africa and the West, often evoked in a poetic or satirical manner. The artist mostly uses photography, video and installation, all of which are present in this first Belgian solo exhibition.
Having grown up in Angola during the civil war following the independence, Kia Henda’s art is grounded in the history of his country. It is also the outcome of a worldwide journey, as foreign influences have been shaping Angola for centuries, from Portuguese colonisation to today’s Chinese-built cities. This global aspect pervades the artist’s work, exposing the power dynamics between countries and continents, including the various tools used to assert supremacy.
While he started out as a self-taught street photographer, Kia Henda outgrew his initial documentary approach and developed increasingly universal storylines. Subverting history and interweaving elements of fiction into fact gave rise to new creative possibilities, displaying humour and irony. This is how the artist came to found an imaginary organisation called O.R.G.A.S.M. (Organisation of African States for Mellowness, 2011-2013) and present photographic evidence of an Angolan space mission to the sun that never took place (Icarus 13, 2008).
At M, the artist shows both recent and earlier work in two galleries. While the art on display takes on very different forms, the works share a startling quality, prompting us to interrogate what we see and look beyond appearances. The political undertone becomes manifest when we begin to perceive contemporary themes: migration, exclusion and the relationship between nature and culture. As geopolitical references are rendered suggestive and forms tend towards abstraction, the questions raised by Kiluanji Kia Henda acquire a universal, timeless dimension.
Photos by Miles Fischler