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Okwui Okpokwasili's POOR PEOPLE'S TV ROOM to Play New York Live Arts

Bessie Award winner and New York Live Arts' Stryker/Ranjelovic Resident Commissioned Artist Okwui Okpokwasili presents the culmination of her two-year residency at New York Live Arts with the New York premiere of Poor People's TV Room. Created in collaboration with director and visual designer Peter Born, the piece is performed by Okpokwasili along with Thuli Dumakude, Katrina Reid and Nehemoyia Young and features movement, song and text created by Okpokwasili and Born.

Performance dates are April 19-22 and 26-29 at 7:30pm at New York Lives Arts, 219 West 19th Street, NYC. For tickets and information, call 212 924 0077 or visit

Inspired in part by the Women's War of 1929 in Nigeria, sometimes referred to as the "Women's Egwu" (meaning dance or performance), specifically the use of embodied protest practices, Poor People's TV Room is a multidisciplinary performance work that plays in a discursive performance space concerned with the entanglement of visibility and shared embodiment, with the spectral and insistent presence of forgotten women.

It is a speculative, impressionistic work grounded in a narrative of the bodies oF Brown women. "Focusing on cultural and historical memory, Poor Peoples TV Room," states Okpokwasili, "is a kind of rumination on absence-how particular forms of mediation, particular ways of looking and framing in attempting to create visibility, may hasten invisibility. I'm thinking of the "Bring Back Our Girls Movement" and the meme culture. I'm thinking about attempts to recover seminal historical moments from the margins, and what to recover. I am also considering Nollywood and cultural creation and projection and popular mythmaking."

In Okpokwasili's inquiry into the Igbo Women's War of 1929 she discovered the empowered role of women as stewards of the pre-colonial marketplace and how the colonial project sought to supplant women in the market with men. The current spate of suicide bombings in Northern Nigerian markets, often carried out by young women violently coerced or radicalized by Boko Haram, presents a twisted and violent irony where young women are visible not as caretakers of the market but as an existential threat.

As her work often entangles histories of grief and desire, the TV room in Poor People's TV Room is an attempt to open up a space where history is excavated by the body even after the mind has lost its ability to remember. The TV room is a kind of resistance or talking back to the disappearance of black women in cultural narratives, especially as empowered agents of their own change. "It is a space of becoming and unbecoming," states Okpokwasili.

In their work Okpokwasili and Born use duration to reorganize the temporal space and allow the performance work to be anchored and shaped out of an energetically charged and unflinchingly corporeal relationship of the performers to each other and to the audience.


Okwui Okpokwasili is a New York-based writer, performer and choreographer. In partnership with collaborator Peter Born, Okpokwasili creates cross disciplinary performance projects. Their first New York production, Pent-Up: A Revenge Dance premiered at Performance Space 122 and recieved a 2010 New York Dance and Performance "Bessie" Award?for Outstanding Production; an immersive installation version was featured in the 2008 Prelude Festival. Their second collaboration, Bronx Gothic, won a 2014 New York Dance and Performance "Bessie" Award for Outstanding Production and toured nationally and internationally. Site Specific performance installations include Bronx Gothic: The Oval at the 2014 River to River Festival, When I Return Who Will Receive Me? at the 2016 River to River Festival, and Poor People's TV Room solo at Lincoln Center in the David Rubinstein Atrium in June 2014.

Okpokwasili frequently collaborates with award- winning director Ralph Lemon, including How Can You Stay in?the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?, Come home Charley Patton (for which she also won a New York Performance "Bessie" Award); a duet performed at The Museum of Modern Art as part of On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century; and, most recently, Ralph Lemon's Scaffold Room. She has worked with Nora Chipaumire, Julie Taymor, Young Jean Lee, Annie Dorsen, Richard Foreman, and Richard Maxwell.

Okpokwasili's residencies and awards include The French American Cultural Exchange (2006-2007); Maggie Allesee National Center?for Choreography Choreographic Fellowship (2012, 2016); Baryshnikov Arts Center Artist-in-Residence (2013); New York Live Arts Studio Series (2013); Under Construction at the Park Avenue Armory (2013); New York Foundation for the Arts' Fellowship in Choreography (2013); Danspace Project (2013, 2014); Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's Extended Life Program (2014-15); The Foundation for Contemporary Arts' Dance grantee(2014); BRIClab (2015); Wesleyan ICPP Artist in Residency; Artist in Residence at the Harkness Dance Center at the 92Y; 2016 Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's President's Award for the Performing Arts; Columbia University (2015), and the Rauschenberg Residency (2015). Okpokwasili is the 2015-2017 Randjelovic/Stryker New York Live Arts Resident Commissioned Artist (RCA.) Her work has been supported by Creative Capital, the MAP Fund and NEFA.

Peter Born is a director, designer and filmmaker. In addition to?his work with Okpokwasili, he is currently collaborating with David Thomson on a cycle of installation/ performances revolving around a post-sexual incarnation of Venus, happening throughout 2015-16. He created the set for Nora Chipaumire's rite/riot, and he has created performance videos with Chipaumire, including the upcoming El Capitan Kinglady. He works as an art director and prop stylist for video and photo projects with clients such as Vogue, Estee Lauder, Barney's Co-op, Bloomingdales, Old Navy, "25" magazine, Northrup Grumman and The Wall Street Journal, with collaborators including Kanye West, Barnaby Roper, Santiago and Mauricio Sierra, Quentin Jones and NoStringsUS Puppet Productions. He is a former New York public high school teacher, an itinerant floral designer, corporate actor-facilitator and furniture designer. His collaborations with Okwui Okpokwasili have garnered two New York Dance Performance "Bessie" Awards.

New York Live Arts serves as home base for Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company and is the company's sole producer, providing support and the environment to originate innovative and challenging new work for the Company and New York's creative community. Located in the heart of Chelsea in New York City, New York Live Arts produces and presents dance, music and theater performances in its 20,000 square-foot home, which includes a 184-seat theater and two 1,200 square-foot studios. New York Live Arts offers an extensive range of participatory programs for adults and young people and supports the continuing professional development of artists.

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