Toto Kisaku is an award-winning Congolese playwright, actor, director and producer. Detained for putting on plays critical of the Congolese government, Toto arrived in the United States in late 2015 seeking political asylum, which he was granted in March of 2018. His one-man play, Requiem For An Electric Chair, tells the story of his persecution in and eventual exile from Congo, and opens with his interview with a U.S. immigration officer. Through this narrative, Toto shares the story of his arrest, imprisonment, and near death in Congo, and the way his art ultimately saved his life.
In his work, Toto explores themes of transgression, oppression, and poverty, often challenging the boundaries between performance and daily life. Recently, Toto was the 2019 International Festival of Arts & Ideas Artist-in-Residence. In 2010, he was the recipient of the Freedom to Create Prize, presented in Cairo, Egypt. The prize is a celebration of the courage and creativity of artists, and the positive influence of their work to promote social justice and inspire the human spirit. Toto has been featured in NPR and ArtForum.
Toto’s performance is presented as part of Artistic Freedom Initiative’s RADICAL RECITATIONS, a four day arts festival that is not only a celebration of freedom of artistic expression, it is a testament to the radical power of storytelling to catalyze social change and a call to action in defense of artistic freedom.
Photography by Nosrat Tarighi