Courtesy and photo by Lewis Ronald/Frieze
Donna Kukama is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice engages performance art as a tool for creative research. Her work presents institutions, monuments, gestures of protest, rumors, and fleeting moments that are as real as they are fictitious. Shifting between performance, video, text, sound, and multimedia installations, her practice takes on a form that is experimental, applying methods that are deliberately undisciplined. She uses performance as a strategy that allows her to invent as well as to apply methods that are outside the canon of what is predictable or expected. She questions how histories are narrated and subverts how value systems are constructed, often centering methods perspectives that originate from the Global South. Through her practice, she weaves major with minor aspects of histories, introducing fragile and brief moments of ‘strangeness’ within sociopolitical settings. Her performances are to be understood as gestures of poetry with a political intent and an urgent need to destabilize existing canons regarding the ways we look at reality. For Kukama, performance becomes a strategy for inserting foreign ‘undocumented’ voices and presences into history by occupying sites and territories that remember less-told stories.
Donna Kukama was born in 1981 in Mafikeng, South Africa. She has exhibited and presented performances at notable institutions and museums such as the South London Gallery in London; Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto; Tate Modern in London; Nottingham Contemporary in Nottingham; De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill On Sea; Arnolfini in Bristol; Padiglione de’Arte Contemporanea Milano in Milan; South African National Gallery in Cape Town; Museum of Modern Art in Antwerp; nGbK in Berlin; Musée - Frac Occitanie Toulouse in Toulouse and the New Museum in New York. Kukama has taken part in several international exhibitions including, among others, the 8th Biennial of Painting; 10th Berlin Biennale; the 57th Belgrade Biennale; 12th Lyon Biennale; the 6th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art; 3rd New Museum Triennale; 32nd Bienal de São Paulo and 8th Berlin Biennale and the 55th Venice Biennale as part of the South African Pavilion. She was awarded the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Performance Art in 2014, and the Wyss Scholarship at ECAV, Switzerland in 2005. She is currently a research associate at the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre at the University of Johannesburg.
Kukama currently lives and works in Cologne, Germany, where she is a professor of Contemporary Art with a focus on the Global South at the Academy of Media Arts (KHM).