When I discovered “concert dance” I hoped to use it to manifest the avant-garde. At the time, I was overwhelmed by the idea and expectation (perhaps self-inflicted) that an African artist should be responsible for Africa’s rich and complicated past, its ancient cultures and rituals, and also be embraced by audiences both at home and abroad. My work has since developed to acknowledge and affirm that an African body can be simultaneously avant-garde and a guardian of the ancient. The intersection of these modes of expression has helped me to create a dynamic and complex (physical) language. I am currently invested in language-building. My work is also expanding to include considerations from outside the performative form. Could the language of the body create economies? Could dance engage civic society?
Statement about portrait of myself as my
Portrait: noun – 1. A verbal picture or description usually of a person; 2. A likeness of a person especially of the face, as a painting, drawing, photograph or dance.
Father: noun – a male parent who has raised a child or supplied the sperm through sexual intercourse or sperm bank.
God the father: noun – a title given to God in religions such as Christianity and Judaism (in part because he is viewed as having active interest in human affairs in the way a father would take interest in his children who are dependent on him).
My father, Webster Barnabas Chipaumire, was born in 1938 and died in 1980. I had no contact or connection with him or his family from the age of five. It has taken me almost 45 years to engage with the idea of a father and what his role in a family could be. In April 2014, I returned to my father’s village in search of a way to draw his portrait. I cannot say exactly what has spurred this curiosity, but suffice it to say that the research and trip have been challenging.
Perhaps this curiosity came from his absence. Perhaps this curiosity came from compassion for the black male. Is the black male a victim of history and culture? Could the black male African body be a way to comprehend traditions, colonialism, Christianity, liberation struggles, and the impact of these ideas on the African family? Is the sacrifice of the black male body/object necessary for civilization’s God, the modernity’s God, the global capital’s God? As Stravinsky/Nijinsky suggest in their monumental work The Rite of Spring, is the sacrifice of a human being limited to primitive societies? I believe that in Africa the sacrificial offering has been the black African male, and not the young female virgin. In portrait of myself as my
father, I offer a new reading of the ritual of spring as the slaughter of African maleness to feed and regenerate the capital’s god.
portrait… is less about my personal relationship (or the absence of it) with Webster Barnabas Chipaumire, than a portrait of a man who is nothing but a man of his time. I give him boxing gloves so that he can have a fighting chance. I have put him in a boxing ring to battle with himself, his shadow, his ancestors, the industrial gods and that merciless tyrant: progress. To be a black male may be challenging in the twenty-first century. To be a black, African father may be unattainable.
nora chipaumire • portrait of myself as my
fatherOctober 20, 21 & 22, 2016 • 7:30 p.m. Buy tickets