View Program for Sènsa

Sènsa is a live performance developed in collaboration with artists Paul Maheke and Nkisi. The work informed by Dr. Kimbwandènde Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau’s 1991 seminal book African Cosmology of the Bantu-Kongo: Principles of Life and Living​. The cosmology of the Bantu-Kongo serves as a point of entry for the work and grounds the performance in a diasporic imaginary; one that is “in-between.” 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,” “to reveal itself.” The performance plays with motifs of presence and withdrawal, oscillating between visibility and erasure with a lighting system conceived by Berlin-based artist Ariel Efraim Ashbel. Co-commissioned and co-presented by Abrons Arts Center, the Performa 19 Biennial, and Red Bull Arts New York.


Paul Maheke graduated from Cergy School of Fine Arts and is an Open School East (London) alum. Recent solo exhibitions include A fire circle for a public hearing at the Chisenhale gallery in London (2018) and Vleeshal Middelburg (2019), and I Lost Track of the Swarm at the South London Gallery (2016). Selected group exhibitions include Le centre ne peut tenir at Lafayette Anticipations in Paris (2018), Ten Days Six Nights at Tate Modern in London (2017), and the Diaspora Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017).

Melika Ngombe Kolongo, AKA Nkisi, is a headliner on the European experimental music circuit. Born in Kinshasa in 1985, Nkisi grew up in Belgium and studied at Narafi Arts Schools in Brussels and Birkbeck University in London. Over the years, Nkisi has championed exploring music and sound within a decolonial context. A recent example is Nkisi’s night of concerts and DJ sets titled Same Same Night II that she organized at Kunstencentrum Vooruit in Gent as part of the art center’s program Same Same but Different, a festival that examined Belgium’s history and its contemporary inscription within a global postcolonial network. Nkisi’s debut EP, Kill (2017) received critical acclaim from Pitchfork, Tiny Mixtapes, and FACT. Her latest solo album, 7 Directions, was released in January 2019.

Ariel Efraim Ashbel (1982, Tel Aviv) is a performance maker. Weaving together a wide array of historical, political, theoretical and pop culture references, his pieces are interdisciplinary compositions at the intersection of theatre, dance, music, and installation. He also collaborates as a performer, dramaturg and light designer with friends such as visual artist Alona Rodeh, choreographers Ligia Lewis and Constanza Macras, performance collectives Showcase Beat Le Mot and Apparatus, composer Wojtek Blecharz and more. Ashbel lives and works in Berlin where he’s working regularly with HAU Hebbel am Ufer, as well as other institutions and festivals around Germany and internationally.


Sènsa is co-commissioned and co-presented by Abrons Arts Center, Performa, and Red Bull Arts New York. Co-curated by Ali Rosa-Salas (Abrons Arts Center) and Charles Aubin (Performa),  Sènsa is supported by the Performa Commissioning Fund, Arts Council England, FUSED (French U.S. Exchange in Dance), and the Flemish Minister for Culture. 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 was developed in collaboration with Block Universe, London.

The 2019-2020 Season at Abrons Arts Center is supported, in part, by generous grants from the Howard Gilman Foundation, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, the Harkness Foundation for Dance, the Jerome Foundation, the Scherman Foundation, and other generous Henry Street Settlement funders. This program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and support from the New York State Council on the arts with the support of Govenor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Image: Block Universe