Fiercely African: Nora Chipaumire on Self-Exile, Role Models, and her Miami Performance
Originally born in Zimbabwe, New York-based choreographer Nora Chipaumire is unafraid to confront the foundations of her own identity. Her upcoming performance, presented by Miami Light Project and Miami-Dade College's MDC Live! performing arts series, promises three bold perspectives on the inward and outward landscapes she has traveled. She will move from a highly charged memoir of Zimbabwe's Chimurenga Chechipiri into a filmed restaging of Anna Pavlova's The Dying Swan, one of the 20th century's iconic ballet solos. A third solo, excerpted from her new work Miriam, takes cues from the life and legend of African singer and civil rights activist Miriam Makeba.
We recently had the opportunity to dig deeper into Chipaumire's creative process, speaking to her about her life and work.
New Times: You describe yourself as being in self-exile from Zimbabwe. What does that mean?
Nora Chipaumire: That
always gets people going! Self-exile simply means I chose to be away
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from home rather than being pushed away. There are a lot of political
undertones to the idea of exile, especially if you are African.
Is self-exile a form of resistance?
but not only against the government. I also have questions about some
of the traditional and family institutions. The politics keep me away
but it's certainly not what drove me away, because when I left my
country, everything was fine. I was just looking for way to express
myself. I think the journey to self-discovery for many, and not just
Africans, comes through travel.
To what are you reacting, as far as traditions and family life?
have questions about how one could be an individual voice in a setting
where the collective is always the dominant idea. The collective starts
with the family. In Africa, generally, the family is very important. In
the West, you find it's the complete opposite; it's all about the
individual. I have questions about these collective systems, and how one
can be independent enough to have a creative imagination. In many ways
you could look at that as a political statement unto itself, considering
the culture that I come from. Trying to stake one's claim as a distinct
individual voice goes against the grain. And I'm in contemporary dance,
which is not the most typical occupation for one to choose.
How do these ideas play out in your upcoming Miami performance?
be showing three different solo pieces. So this thing I'm talking
about, the individual versus the collective -- clearly solo dance is
about the individual. It's about the solo voice. All of the ideas that
inform me politically or otherwise really are embodied in the work. What
you will see in Miami is a very distilled idea of who I am, the kind of
work that I make, and the world of ideas that I am trying to create
physically. This will be very simple, a body dancing in space.
Do you have any creative role models?
Pina Bausch! I adore Pina Bausch. There was an honesty, I guess. The
dance world is so full of talented people but I think Pina Bausch was
able to cut through the muck and get to a simplicity of emotion. She
crossed all kinds of language barriers and even racial barriers; she was
an amazing human being. What she brought to the whole world was a
stunning statement about humanity. And Miriam Makeba set such a high
standard. I hope that I will keep aspiring to that standard of
simplicity and honesty and beauty.
performs Friday, Jan. 20th, at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 21 at 8 p.m. at
the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, 404 NW 26th St. Tickets cost $20
for the general public, $10 for MDC students, faculty and staff, with
valid identification. For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit miamilightproject.com. For information on MDC student/staff tickets,
--Annie Hollingsworth, artburstmiami.com
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