Kapwani Kiwanga
Kapwani Kiwanga © Manuel Braun
Visual arts

Kapwani Kiwanga

I want my work to be seen by people, and not just art people. It’s an invitation to speak, to think, to explore.

Born in Hamilton, Canada, in 1978, Kapwani Kiwanga explores societal and historical themes through various media: performance, sculpture, video, and photography. The 2020 Marcel Duchamp Prize winner, her work has been exhibited all over the world, in Vancouver, London, and Paris where she lives today. 

Updated on 08/10/2021

5 min

After a course in anthropology and comparative religion at McGill University, Montreal, Kapwani Kiwanga went to Edinburgh where she made documentaries for Channel 4 and the BBC: Rooted (2004), about two Afro hair salons in Edinburgh, and Passages (2004), about the issue of racial privilege. 

In 2005, she was part of the “La Seine” research programme at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris, then continued her arts training at Fresnoy - Studio national des arts contemporains. Kapwani Kiwanga dabbles in different forms of art such as installation (Flowers for Africa: Tanganyika, 2014), performance (Binding Ties, 2014), and even photography (Subduction Study #8, 2017). 

Kapwani Kiwanga’s work explores concepts such as Afrofuturism (Afrogalactica: A brief history of the future, 2014), anti-colonial struggles, the asymmetries of power, belief, and the relationship between indigenous peoples and their land (Six Miles Deep, 2009). “Power relationships are a recurring structure and a way of understanding our interactions,” she explains. 

Deeply influenced by her social sciences background, the visual artist is constantly creating works that deconstruct dominant narratives. Maji Maji is inspired by the 1905 Maji Maji Rebellion in East Africa against German occupation. For Flowers for Africa (2013-2020), she created floral arrangements using photographic archives of key moments in the decolonisation of Africa. All of her artworks demonstrate archival work and documentary-making expertise in their own way. 

Kapwani Kiwanga’s works have been all over the world: at the Jeu de Paume in Paris (Maji Maji Satellite 7, 2014), at the São Paulo Biennale in 2018 with Afrogalactica III: Deep Space Scrolls, and at the Whitechapel Gallery in London (Is This Tomorrow?, 2019). 

Since 2018, Kapwani Kiwanga has won multiple awards. She has received four prestigious awards in two years: the Frieze Artist Award (New York, United States), the Sobey Art Award (Canada), the Bourse ADAGP – Étant donnés, and the 2020 Marcel Duchamp Prize (France). 

Her exhibition A certain distance is scheduled for 2021 in Crédac (Centre for contemporary art), Ivry-sur-Seine. 

  • 2005


    Kapwani Kiwanga attends the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris.

  • 2011


    She organises the first of her three “conferences” on Afrofuturism: Afrogalactica.

  • 2015


    The artist exhibits Flowers for Africa: Ghana at FIAC (International fair of contemporary art), a work created using visual archives related to decolonisation.

  • 2018


    Kapwani Kiwanga wins the Frieze Artist Award (United States), the Sobey Art Award (Canada) and the Bourse ADAGP – Étant donnés.

  • 2020


    She wins the Marcel Duchamp Prize for her work Flowers for Africa.

The Institut français and the artist

In 2020, Kapwani Kiwanga has been invited to the Visual arts FOCUS of the Institut français for an online conference with the other nominees of the Marcel Duchamp Prize.

Find out more about the Visual arts FOCUS

L'institut français, LAB