Story of a Conservator
Performance by Kapwani Kiwanga
16 September 2014
19h00 to 20h00
Jeu de Paume, Paris

“Maji Maji”, the exhibition created by Kapwani Kiwanga, is inspired by the historical account of the Maji Maji War that took place between 1905 and 1907 and was the result of one of the biggest uprisings on the African continent in the early 20th century. The revolt against the German administration had been inspired by Kinjeketile, a spirit medium possessed by the spirit Hongo. Kinjeketile had numerous followers, to whom he distributed sacred water, or maji, reputed to protect them by turning the German bullets into water. But the maji did not save them, and many Africans lost their lives.

In her exhibition, Kapwani Kiwanga is interested in the voids left by the living memory of the Maji Maji War, in its material traces and in the supernatural world that encompasses and contextualises it. To tackle her subject, Kapwani has opted in particular for an approach based on empathy, so that the viewer can feel and imagine these voids that are inaccessible or have disappeared. Absence, which evokes the power of the oral, the broken and the fragmented, thus becomes a constituent element in the story that is replayed.
Kapwani’s interest in oral traditions has given rise to an on-going exploration of the formal possibilities of oral transmission. In Story of a Conservator, her lecture-performance at the Jeu de Paume, she assumes the role of a conservator in charge of very specific and subjective archives. She makes silent objects speak, embodies forgotten accounts and tells fantastical stories. Unusual anecdotes, unspoken facts and mythical beasts all have their place in the stories told by Kiwanga. By combining readings, sound and video extracts, the artist questions the status of the document.

Tuesday, 16 September, 9pm. Admission is free, but there are a limited number of places.

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