Okwui Okpokwasili is a performer, choreographer and writer who creates multidisciplinary works that center the stories and experiences of those overlooked by history, in particular Black women and girls in America and in Nigeria, from where her own parents immigrated.
Her performance work has been commissioned by such varied cultural institutions as the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Danspace Project in New York City and the 10th Annual Berlin Biennale, and she has performed on stages and in institutions all over the world. She has received some of this country’s most prestigious cultural accolades, including a Doris Duke Award and an Alpert Award, and in 2018 she earned a “genius” grant from the MacArthur Foundation, which cited her ability to “mesmerize audiences with her shape-shifting character play, sinuous grace, and rich, hypnotic voice.”
Speaking to Pier Carlo Talenti and Rob Kramer from her home in Brooklyn, Okwui describes the grief and longing that she, a profoundly collaborative artist, has experienced during the isolation of the pandemic. She also makes the case that the institutions that deserve the most support now and henceforth are those that, like she, place collaboration and inquiry at the heart of their work and ethos.