“How do you become a man? A black man? A black African man?” In a makeshift boxing ring in the loading dock of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Nora Chipaumire’s PORTRAIT OF MYSELF AS MY
FATHER explored gender and racial identity as she dramatized the life of a father she never knew. With a physical vocabulary that incorporates boxing, fight choreography, modern African dance, and hip hop, Chipaumire leads the audience through a narrative exploring masculinity, specifically black African masculinity, and those who carry the weight and ramifications of it.
“I wanted the most masculine physical language possible, language of male spaces—or arena—in which black men dominate,” explained the Zimbabwe-born choreographer/performer. PORTRAIT’s dark, serious subject matter is met with a witty staccato humor—mirrored in movement as it is in narration as the main performers are tethered to the ring and each other—not enough to impede the performance, but a constant reminder of the weight and prevalence of the stereotypes addressed. This powerfully expressive performance breaks down the fourth wall (or boxing ring borders) and engages audiences in a celebration, contemplation, and criticism of black masculinity and the stereotypes that exist around it.
[Philadelphia Museum of Art, Loading Dock-West Entrance, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway] September 23-24, 2016; fringearts.com/portrait-of-myself-as-my-father
This FringeArts curated performance was a co-presentation with the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of their Creative Africa project and is supported by an Advancement Grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project.