Paul Maheke and Melika Ngombe Kolongo (Nkisi), Sènsa, 2018. Courtesy Block Universe. Photo Manuela Barczewski.



With a focus on dance and through a varied and often collaborative body of work comprising performance, installation, sound and video, Paul Maheke considers the potential of the body as an archive in order to examine how memory and identity is formed and constituted.

Nkisi is the pseudonym of Melika Ngombe Kolongo, whose activities as a producer, live musician, DJ and curator are channels for an ongoing inquiry into sound as a tool of communication beyond the purely lingual.

Ariel Efraim Ashbel frequently collaborates as a performer, dramaturg and light designer with many artists, choreographers and composers, in addition to his own transdisciplinary performance practice that weaves together historical, political, theoretical, and pop culture references.


Sènsa (2019)

Combining sound, light, and movement, Sènsa⁠ (2019) traverses diasporic geographies and ancestral knowledge. Playing with motifs of presence and withdrawal, the performance insists on the sensorial. A blurring of the field of vision is at the heart of Sènsa, a Bantu word that translates as “coming to visibility,” “to appear from far away,” or “to reveal itself.” Informed by Dr. Kimbwandènde Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau’s 1991 book African Cosmology of the Bantu-Kongo: Principles of Life and Living, Sènsa positions the cosmology of the Bantu-Kongo as a point of entry which grounds the performance in a diasporic imaginary; one that is “in-between.” Sènsa brings to the fore voices often marginalized in Western-dominated history. The performance oscillates between visibility and erasure with a lighting system conceived by Ariel Efraim Ashbel while Nkisi’s music alternates between atmospheric waves and forceful musical spasms to create a disorienting sonic environment generated and treated live by sound captors installed on the theater’s walls and floor. Ghostly shadows appear and disappear, mumbled words akin to spells are being cast, and echoes of the building’s vibrations serve as strategies to build an intoxicating performance.

Watch an excerpt of this performance here (from 01:39).


Read a conversation between the artists and Aaron Cezar in advance of the November programme on My Art Guides.


Sènsa was co-commissioned by Performa, Abrons Arts Center, and Red Bull Arts New York. Originally presented and co-curated by Charles Aubin (Performa) and Ali Rosa-Salas (Abrons Arts Center) for Performa 19, Sènsa was supported by the Performa Commissioning Fund, Abrons Arts Center, Red Bull Arts New York, Arts Council England, the Flemish Minister for Culture, and FUSED (French U.S. Exchange in Dance) – a program of FACE Foundation and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States with the support of the Florence Gould Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Institut français-Paris, the French Ministry of Culture, and private donors. This project has been selected and supported by the patronage committee for the arts of Fondation des Artistes. With additional help from ICA London. A first iteration of Sènsa was developed in collaboration with Block Universe, London. Costume: Firpal Jawanda. Stylist: Curtly Thomas

Other participating artists, final weekend

Vivian Caccuri

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Cooking Sections

Participating artists


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Solange Knowles

Participating artist

Vivien Sansour

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Bo Zheng

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