Okwui Okpokwasili

About

Okwui Okpokwasili’s new theater piece centers around a young African American girl who loses all of her hair after using a chemical straightener, only to have it restored by the power of a mysterious, unhoused woman. The young girl’s hair comes back with properties that restore genetic and cultural memory and allow her to discover her family’s precolonial past. A work that centers around the complexity of repair, physical and psychic, that will require traveling to the past and into the future.

A riveting presence in her own unclassifiable creations, Okpokwasili can leave an audience vibrating, moved by images and incantations that linger long after a performance has ended.

Siobhan Burke, Dance Magazine

The project was funded through the support of ICA Boston, Brown University and was partially developed in a Studio Residency at The Museum of Modern Art, as part of the Hyundai Card Performance Series. 

about the artists

Okwui Okpokwasili

Okwui Okpokwasili is a Brooklyn-based performer, choreographer, and writer creating multidisciplinary performance pieces. The child of immigrants from Nigeria, Okpokwasili was born and raised in the Bronx, and the histories of these places and the girls and women who inhabit them feature prominently in much of her work. Her highly experimental productions include Bessie Award-winning Pent-Up: A Revenge Dance, Bessie Award-winning Bronx Gothic, Bronx Gothic: The Oval, Poor People’s TV Room, Poor People’s TV Room Solo, When I Return Who Will Receive Me, and Adaku’s Revolt. Recent works include installations in the exhibitions: Grief and Grievance, Art and Mourning in America at the New Museum, Witchhunt at The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and Sex Ecologies at Kunsthall Trondheim in Norway. Commissions include the performanceOn the way, undone at the Highline in New York City and at Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn as part of French Institute Alliance Française’s Crossing the Line Festival, the film Returning for Danspace Project, and the site-specific performances “Swallow the Moon at Jacob’s Pillow. She has worked with film and theater directors: Carrie Mae Weems, Ralph Lemon, Arthur Jafa, Terence Nance, Josephine Decker, Mika Rottenberg, Mahyad Tousi, Charlotte Brathwaite, Jim Findlay, Annie Dorsen, and Peter Born. Okpokwasili has worked at the newly reenvisioned Flea Theater, the Public, TFANA, Soho Rep, HERE Arts Center, and the Kitchen. Her residencies and awards include The French American Cultural Exchange (2006-2007); Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography Choreographic Fellowship (2012); Baryshnikov Arts Center artist-in-residence (2013); New York Live Arts Studio Series (2013); Under Construction at the Park Avenue Armory (2013); New York Foundation for the Arts’ Fellowship in Choreography (2013); Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Extended Life Program (2014-‘17, 2019-20); ICPP at Wesleyan (2015); The Foundation for Contemporary Arts’ artist grant in dance (2014); BRIClab (2015); Columbia University (2015); the Rauschenberg Residency (2015); and Mellon Creative Futures fellow at Carolina Performing Arts, UNC-Chapel Hill. Okpokwasili was the 2015-2017 Randjelovic/Stryker New York Live Arts Resident Commissioned Artist. She was a 2018 Princeton University Hodder fellow, a 2018 Herb Alpert Award recipient in Dance, an Antonyo awardee, a 2018 Doris Duke Artist awardee, and a 2018 MacArthur fellow. She will be the inaugural artist for the Kravis Studio Residency program at MoMA.

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Peter Born

Peter Born works as a director, composer, and designer of performance and installation, often in collaboration with Okwui Okpokwasili. Their most recent collaboration is Poor People’s TV Room (SOLO) at the New Museum. Other collaborations with Okpokwasili include Sitting on a Man’s Head (2019), Adaku’s Revolt (2019), At the Anterior Edge (2018), Poor People’s TV Room (2017), when I return, who will receive me (2016), Bronx Gothic (The Oval) (2014), Bronx Gothic (2013) and pent up: a revenge dance (2009), as well as an album, day pulls down the sky (2019). Their work has also appeared in the Berlin Biennale and at the Tate. He collaborated with David Thomson as a director, designer, and writer on The Venus Knot (2017) and he his own mythical beast (2018), and as a set designer for Nora Chipaumire’s rite/riot (2014) and El Capitan Kinglady (2016). Four of Born’s collaborations have garnered New York Dance Performance Bessie Awards. His work as an art director and prop stylist has been featured in video and photo projects with Vogue, Estee Lauder, Barney’s CO-OP, Bloomingdale’s, Old Navy, 25Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and No Strings Puppet Productions. He is a former New York public high school teacher, itinerant floral designer, corporate actor-facilitator, video maker, and furniture designer.

cast & creative team

Created and Performed by Okwui Okpokwasili

Directed and Designed by Peter Born