#PUNK 100% POP *N!GGA
A liberated rock star of dance originally from Zimbabwe, nora chipaumire proclaims via punk, pop and rumba the urgent need for liberation with an epic and invigorating triptych.
She summons the audience, shakes them up and provokes them almost insolently, fuelled by revolt and a desire to abolish class structures and taboos. A liberated rock star of dance originally from Zimbabwe, the New York choreographer nora chipaumire overturns relations based on domination and exploitation with #PUNK 100% POP *N!GGA, an electrifying triptych that flirts between trance and ritual.
Chanting slogans, quoting her idols Patti Smith, Grace Jones and the Congolese singer Rit Nzele, chipaumire proclaims via punk, pop and rumba the urgent need for liberation. A frenetic concert, this three-part manifesto opens up a festive space of rebellion, tearing down walls between blacks and whites. Inspired by her own history, the performer invites the crowd to be as one with her fiery musicians, dancers and DJs in an impassioned song of protest. Epic and invigorating.
Produced by nora chipaumire
Concept, Choreography, Performance, Text, Light Design, Sound and Costume Design nora chipaumire
Performed by Atiyyah Khan + Kris Lee + Antoni Mantorski-Barczuk + Shamar Watt + Austin Williamson
Sound Direction Antoni Mantorski-Barczuk
Technical Direction Heidi Eckwall
Set Design Ari Marcopoulos + Kara Walker + Matt Jackson Studio
Booking Thomas O. Kriegsmann – ArKtype
Company Management Leonie Wichmann
Co-produced by The Kitchen (New York) + Crossing the Line Festival (New York) + Quick Center for the Arts at Fairfield University
With the support of Fondation d’entreprise Hermès (Paris) within the framework of the New Settings Program (100% POP) + Guggenheim Foundation (New York) + NYSCA (New York) + Institute for Creative Arts at the University of Cape Town + Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation (Baltimore) + American Dance Abroad
Creative Residencies Lincoln Center Atrium Series (New York) + Gibney’s Dance in Process program (New York) with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in partnership with JACK + Stephen Petronio Residency Center (New York) + Bates Dance Festival (Lewiston) + University of Richmond Theater and Dance Department+ Operaestate Festival – Bassano del Grappa + Brooklyn Academy of Music + Miami Light Project + Sarah Lawrence College (New York)
Presented in association with Théâtre ESPACE GO
Written by Elsa Pépin
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
#PUNK premiered at Crossing the Line Festival (New York) on September 14, 2017, 100% POP premiered at Let’s Dance International Frontiers (Leicester) on April 29, 2018, *N!GGA premiered with the trilogy at Crossing the Line on October 11, 2018.
nora chipaumire (Mutare + New York)
Born and raised in Mutare, Zimbabwe and now living in New York, the choreographer and star of the contemporary New York scene Nora chipaumire, has been questioning assumptions and overturning stereotypes of Africa, black bodies, identity and aesthetics since 1998.
The recipient of four Bessie Awards, chipaumire initially earned a law degree before studying performance, choreography and dance in Africa, Jamaica, Cuba and the U.S. Her shows have toured the world, particularly France, Italy, Japan, Senegal and Zimbabwe.
chipaumire is interested in the status and power of the body, the impact of social class structures, politics and the possibilities of emancipation, and individual and social independence movements. Her solo Dark Swan (2005), remounted as an ensemble piece in 2014, honed in on transmitting the live art of one body to another through her body, that of an African woman with all her inherited historical and political baggage.
Her dance works focus on issues such as black, African and female identity and colonialism, bodies in conversation, political protest. Her dance-theatre performance Miriam (2012) questioned the legacy of imperialist racist views that define female beauty and power, while portrait of myself as my father (2016) takes place in a simulated boxing ring and considers the African male through the lens of capitalism.
For her first visit to the FTA, chipaumire is presenting her trilogy #PUNK, 100% POP, *N!GGA, presented at The Kitchen in New York in 2018. Part self-portrait, part political manifesto and punk concert, this threefold live performance further pursues her questions about the emancipation of black bodies, as well as relations based on domination.
Your trilogy #PUNK 100% POP *N!GGA is inspired by three musical genres (punk, pop and rumba) that correspond to three sonic ideologies. How are they linked?
All three sonic worlds call on revolutionary thinking. What interests me is their political dimension. The arc of the trilogy begins outside Africa with punk and pop, and then moves on to Africa with Congolese rumba, like a return to the origins of humanity.
I begin with the radical punk movement of the 1960s and ’70s created by rebellious youth in England facing a future of « no future », a nonconformist, anti-government subculture. I then move on to pop, which is more generic.
Seemingly devoid of any political dimension, pop is very powerful. It is accessible to one and all, and it is everywhere.
The third part (*N!GGA) is inspired by Congolese rumba, which is also popular on its own terms but is necessarily on the margins because it is African. It is quite different from punk culture. Rumba is black mathematics, a near-perfect science per se. Congo serves a basis for a diversity of languages and heralds the arrival of independence, the emergence of a different era with much potential for the women of Africa.
The triptych pays tribute to three strong female singers in punk (Patti Smith), pop (Grace Jones) and rumba (Rit Nzele). Why these three iconic figures?
Patti Smith stands out for her solidarity with others, Grace Jones for her distinct individuality and Rit Zele for her ability to integrate into a male milieu, thereby allowing us to rethink what celebrity is as regards African women. I chose Grace Jones to represent pop music because that gutsy black woman dared to call into question gender identities and was decidedly outside any category or convention, her individuality always front and foremost.
When I lived in Zimbabwe Grace Jones was an inspiring model for me. She had a unique unchanging look, affirming without embarrassment the masculine side of a woman. She was really ahead of her time. Rit Nzele is a Congolese singer who is also a « atalaku », a spoken word performer and master of ceremonies. She was an important model, a woman who succeeded in the very masculine world of Congolese rumba.
She is hard to find on the Internet, and that’s what interests me.These women have an impact in marginal spaces. Many people say there are no African women choreographers in contemporary dance.
The truth is that they exist, but do not have the same visibility as women. When one rises to the top, we know that she is the best of the best. She had to be a fighter to succeed at that level.
#PUNK is inspired by the famous Patti Smith song « Rock ‘n’ Roll Nigger« , the white woman who sees herself as black. How did that paradox speak to you?
It’s an urgent question at the moment. When she says « I’m a rock ‘ roll nigger » and identifies with poor workers, with the « other », she is not saying that she is « blacker » than anyone else but that she stands in solidarity with them.
I go further by militarizing that, by showing how the word « nigga » is problematic. As a black African, like a white woman I question my right to use that word. Africans and Americans have made it a weapon. I am interested in the political economy of language.
#PUNK 100% POP *N!GGA resembles a punk concert where the audience shares the space with the performers. Why that choice?
Because performance in dance is dead. The same old structures are repeated everywhere: bodies gazing at each other, so passive. People want to see a show, to watch something entertaining, but their bodies are comatose, as though on life support.
The idea is to reinvigorate the performative art of dance and also to be present, engaged with the audience. Performers and the public are one, activating the idea of democracy, of a constitution.
In a punk concert, everyone participates. When we react and interact, a real conversation takes place. That’s what democracy should be – active participation.
Since Obama black empowerment is now everywhere. Can we also bring in ideas generated by black thinking, by African philosophy? It is essential that we blacks dream bigger, stronger, better, in terms of ideas. That also implies questioning performance, the body, how a constitution is constructed and what it means.