Something Happened on the Way to Heaven

Kiluanji Kia Henda

Kiluanji Kia Henda Bullet Proof Glass Mappa Mundi Caprera Island Inkjet print on matt paper image courtesy the artist and Galleria Fonti Naples

Galerias Municipais are pleased to present Something Happened on the Way to Heaven, a major solo exhibition dedicated to Kiluanji Kia Henda (Luanda, Angola, 1979), one of the most relevant artists and activists of African origin on the contemporary art scene.

Something Happened on the Way to Heaven features a series of sculptures and installations created especially by Kiluanji Kia Henda as a an artist in residency at LUMA Foundation in Arles France, and at MAN Museum in Nuoro Sardinia (with the support of Sardegna Film Commission), and presented alongside earlier photographic works. In the artist’s new pieces, the idyllic beauty of Mediterranean landscape is contrasted with the architectural traces of the Cold War and its contemporary history as a place of migration and social injustice between Africa and Europe.

Something Happened on the Way to Heaven is formulated as a two-way observation on the Mediterranean world: a seemingly paradisiacal idyll that reveals the presence of its opposite. Indeed, Kiluanji Kia Henda’s works highlight the contradictory dialectics of a natural splendour endowed with idealized features and an obscure flipside of historic and present threats.

The first dialectic element is, of course, beauty. Represented by Mediterranean nature and the idealization of the sea and coasts, this beauty has become mass merchandise during the era of contemporary tourism. The second element is represented by traces from the Cold War and the disturbing image of the Mediterranean today, no longer perceived as a bridge between different worlds, languages and cultures, but as a mirage of hope for a new life that leads to death for thousands of people who attempt to cross the sea in order to achieve it.

The land between Africa and Europe is thus interpreted in its discordant contrast between the beauties of its coastal landscape and the contemporary drama of the Mediterranean. It has been considered a place of conflict and blockades, the border of a Europe that is shutting itself behind a curtain of increasingly rigid legal and physical barriers. The subject of movement and migration is evoked through zoomorphic images such as the flamingos that have a nomadic lifestyle, with no strict seasonal rules. Here they are symbolizing migration as a free, unpredictable and universal phenomenon.

The artist thus links the Mediterranean and Saharan territories: two unstable and constantly changing regions, bearing witness to recent and future transformations that are affecting both respective continents of Europe and Africa.

– Luigi Fassi, curator

In collaboration with Publitaxis & Publiroda and CP – Comboios de Portugal the exhibition Something Happened on the Way to Heaven by Kiluanji Kia Henda also features the work A Sina de Otelo / Othello’s Fate (Act I, II, III and IV) from 2013, mounted on eighty posters in train carriages serving the line to Sintra.

A bilingual publication featuring an introductory essay by Luigi Fassi and a conversation between Kiluanji Kia Henda and Elvira Dyangani Ose is forthcoming. Design by Hilma Sassa.

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Is God a Communist?
Ana Sophie Salazar
It’s going to take a bit more than that
Kiluanji Kia Henda, Daniel Peres, Luísa Cardoso, João Gaspar (Galerias Municipais)