Sitting on a Man’s Head
Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born
A “public song,” engaging the Project Row Houses campus, local artists, and the Houston community.
In conjunction with the CounterCurrent - a free festival of performance, installation, and ideas presented by the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.
April 12, 2019
Saturday, April 13, 2019
Project Row Houses
2505 Holman Street
Houston, TX 77004
Artists in residence through the Performing the Neighborhood initiative of the Mitchell Center and Project Row Houses over the past three years, Okpokwasili and Born have created a dynamic “public song,” engaging the Project Row Houses campus, local artists, and the Houston community. Their installation in a row house will be activated during CounterCurrent as an immersive live experience, in turn intimate and collective.
The practice of “sitting on a man” was one of the many disruptive durational protest practices used by women in Southeastern Nigeria, it was a traditional exercise of their collective power and it became a vital tool throughout the period of British colonial rule.
In Sitting on a Man’s Head, the space of restoration and restitution is considered. Where the women in Southeastern Nigeria had long-standing kinship and communal bonds, shared languages and shared concerns, Okpokwasili and Born consider making a space for the formation of new bonds of kinship around common questions.
Working with artists based in Houston, Okpokwasili and Born hope to use the tools of their performance practice to build a space for the creation of an improvisational public song composed of aural and choreographic gestures. Can a shared creative practice be generative and generous while also being instructive in imagining new possibilities of communal relations?
Sitting on a Man’s Head was developed as part of Performing the Neighborhood, a joint initiative with Project Row Houses to bring performance-based artists to Houston annually. Performing the Neighborhood is supported in part with an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
About the Artists
Okwui Okpokwasili (New York, NY) is a performer, choreographer, and writer creating multidisciplinary performance pieces that seek to shape and amplify the shared psychic space the audience and performer inhabit, and, through centering the African/African American feminine, to illuminate universal human conditions. As the child of immigrants from Nigeria, born and raised in the Bronx, the reconstitution of memory and the slippery terrain of identity as a particular condition of the African diaspora features prominently in much of Okpokwasili’s work. Her productions are highly experimental in form, bringing together elements of dance, theater, and the visual arts (with spare and distinctive sets designed by her husband and director/collaborator, Peter Born). She was recently named a 2018 McArthur Fellow (www.macfound.org/fellows/1019).
Peter Born (New York, NY) is a director, designer, and filmmaker. In addition to his work with Okwui Okpokwasili, he collaborates with David Thomson on a cycle of installation/performances revolving around a post-sexual incarnation of Venus. He created the set for Nora Chipaumire’s rite/riot, and he has created performance videos with Chipaumire, including El Capitan Kinglady. He is a former New York public high school teacher, an itinerant oral designer, corporate actor-facilitator and furniture designer. His collaborations with Okpokwasili have garnered two New York Dance Performance “Bessie” Awards.