in Frieze London | 10 OCT 23

Kiluanji Kia Henda, ‘Phantom Pain – A Letter to Henry A. Kissinger’

A deeply personal retrospection on the influence of US foreign policy on the decades-long civil war in Angola  

in Frieze London | 10 OCT 23

Kiluanji Kia Henda   

Phantom Pain – A Letter to Henry A. Kissinger  

2020, 8 min 33 sec  

In the 2020 work Phantom Pain – A Letter to Henry A. Kissinger, Kiluanji Kia Henda crafts a deeply personal and poignant narrative, framed as a video letter addressed to the former US Secretary of State. Set against the backdrop of the street where Kia Henda spent his formative years, the film serves as a visual testament to the lingering scars of the Angolan civil war (1975–2002), interweaving elements of the artist’s childhood memories, encapsulated within the very landmarks that punctuate this street – the cinema, the church and the orthopaedic center. Through Kia Henda’s reflective lens, viewers are confronted with the grim realities of the Cold War’s far-reaching influence on the Angolan conflict, underlining the nefarious role of US policies in exacerbating the turmoil, as documented in John Stockwell’s critical work In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story first published in 1974. Kia Henda’s narrative approach offers not just a historical critique but a deeply personal retrospection, grounding the vast political canvas in the intimate corridors of memory and loss.   

About Kiluanji Kia Henda 

Kiluanji Kia Henda (b. 1979, Luanda) employs a surprising sense of humour in his work, which often homes in on themes of identity, politics and perceptions of post-colonialism and modernism in Africa. Kia Henda brings a critical edge to his multidisciplinary practice, which incorporates photography, video and performance. Informed by a background surrounded by photography enthusiasts, Kia Henda’s conceptual-based work has further been sharpened by exposure to music, avant-garde theatre and collaborations with a collective of emerging artists in Luanda’s art scene. Much of the artist’s work draws on history through the appropriation and manipulation of public spaces and structures, and the different representations that form part of collective memory, in order to produce complex, yet powerful imagery. Kia Henda has had solo exhibitions in galleries and institutions around the world, and has featured in biennales in Sharjah, Venice, Dakar, São Paulo and Gwangju. Kia Henda currently lives and works between Luanda and Lisbon. 

Kiluanji Kia Henda, Phantom Pain – A Letter to Henry A. Kissinger, 2020, 8 min 33 sec. Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town, London and New York


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