Born in Mutare, Zimbabwe and based in New York City, Nora Chipaumire has been challenging and embracing stereotypes of Africa and the black performing body, art, and aesthetic. Her newest work—Portrait of Myself as My Father, to be performed March 23–25, 2018 at Minneapolis’s Uppercut Boxing Gym as part of the Walker series Spot On: Site-Specific Adventures—has been hailed by the New York Times as “a no-holds-barred look at masculinity in African culture and the African male body in American culture.” She has studied dance in Africa, Cuba, Jamaica and the U.S. and has performed her works worldwide. Her current and ongoing projects include chicken farming in Burkina Faso and creating “living archives” with contemporary dancers in Harare, Zimbabwe.
2017 has been heavy, like clouds hanging, hung, ready to burst with rain… a pregnant year, full of unknown futures. A year that started in Southern Africa and ends in Southern Africa: the triangle between Harare (Zimbabwe), Kinshasa (DRC), Cape Town (South Africa) seems to have marked 2017 for me. On the University of Cape Town campus, Rhodes fell. Then Fees Must Fall became the next battlefield: long lines in Harare at banks, the sense that money could not be the mode of exchange or of finding value: Kin-Kesse—the fullness of the human imagination—in Kinshasa. And finally the grand theater of President Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s resignation. The theater of ideas has taken place in these cities for me and have given me renewed courage.
ZIMBABWE’S BANKING SYSTEMS
Living without cash—understanding the joys of being cash-free because simply no money is available—and witnessing the beginning of the end (of RGM, which came in November ), and the resilience of the Zimbabwean spirit .
Witnessing this legendary Congolese master at work rehearsing in the equally legendary club built by Franco (TK OK JAZZ ). The importance of supporting artists and the necessity of building institutions.
FAUSTIN LINYEKULA AT THE MET
Questions of how a museum acquires art objects is opened to scrutiny by this master provocateur. In a duet between Faustin and Moya Michael in the museum’s Spanish room, questions of live art in museums, black African bodies in museums, and African objects in museums come up—as is how museums are currently acquiring live bodies as art.
PINA BAUSCH AT BAM
Le Sacre du Printemps. Why dance—as opposed to non-dance, performance art, live art—still matters? The language of Graham, Limon , Humphrey (even ballet) restored to its original relevance—which was saying something. Watching The Rite reminded me that perhaps it’s not the western language of modernity that is dead , but perhaps it is the western imagination that is now suffering a huge deficit. The dancers’ bodies have been so well trained to a point of mechanic efficiency. Pina Bausch’s dancers are most evidently super trained, but the humanity of this primitive ritual restores the language to its usefulness glamor.
GERMAINE ACOGNY AT BAM
Mon élue noire (My Black Chosen One): Sacre #2: Why and how “covers” are necessary? They extend the interpretation, preservation, and dissemination of seminal work. A cover to me is how music has been successfully passed on to younger generations and is spread across differing cultural geographies. 2013 was the 100-year anniversary of Nijinksy’s The Rite of Spring. This work has continued to be read and rewritten on bodies young and old across the world: it was exhilarating seeing this older African female body take it on, without surrendering any of the mystic of women of a certain age and without reducing the power of Africa’s legendary animism. Acogny’s cover of Nijinsky is the reason why mature artists are essential.
KARA WALKER AT SIKKEMA JENKINS
Walker’s exhibition, with the 198-word title, was phenomenal—her expansion of materials and deepening of commitment to the theme.
POLITICS AND GOVERNANCE IN MY BELOVED ZIMBABWE
Robert Gabriel Mugabe retires, spelling the end of “men of the revolution,” men whose lives were driven by liberation struggles. It’s my feeling that these men’s time is now coming to an end—an end which may have began with the passing of Nelson Mandela. It is clear to me that soon enough my country of birth will be governed by a generation “born free.” This is an exciting and curious universe for someone born in 1965 to imagine.
NYANGA TOWNSHIP, CAPE TOWN
Witnessing emerging choreographers take on necessary subjects such as “fees must fall,” “Rhodes must fall,” and other the legacies of apartheid, in the township of Nyanga: this township has reputedly the highest murder rate in the world, although driving through this neighborhood one doesn’t suspect this statistic exists. The community art center, a beautiful oasis for youth and youthful expressions, seems a vital place to encourage discourse and artistic practice. This is particularly encouraging to me as the apathetic legacy means that the former white areas still have the best infrastructures to support artistic production, and race + class is still the most visible divider of neighborhoods in Cape Town.
REREADING KODWO ESHUN
Kodwo Eshun’s More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction is a must-read for everyone who cares about sound. Everything this man writes or produces as part of Otolith Group ought to be mandatory reading for the 21st century artist.
ZEITZ MOCCA, CAPE TOWN
The architecture, the collection, and the curators: what does art need, when does it need it, where does it need it, how does it need it?