Okwui Okpokwasili

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Creative Futures Artist-in-Residence

Building a platform for the creation of an ongoing improvisational song

Okwui Okpokwasili, whose 2018 MacArthur Fellow biography describes her as a “performer, choreographer, and writer creating multidisciplinary performance pieces,” seeks to use the practices of art and performance to build bridges and bonds. Holding space where community members can be in dialogue with each other and learn from one another is critically important to her. 

“My project is to build a platform for the creation of an ongoing improvisational song,” she says. Okpokwasili, who is cultivating relationships with local community artists, “develops strategies and exercises that allow us to engage in conversations with people we know and people we don’t know. And from these conversations we start to build a sonic landscape.”

MORE ABOUT OKwui’S WORK

“That landscape could be lyrical, melodic songs, cries, shouts,” she says. Working with local artists—including Murielle Elizeon and Tommy Noonan, co-directors of the Saxapahaw-based performing arts collective Culture Mill—Okpokwasili and her collaborative partner Peter Born will create a space to develop an “improvisational public song comprised of sounds and movement.” 

Okpokwasili believes that this work is the perfect way to integrate CPA’s “desire to reach out into the community in a deeper and more sustained relationship.” She says that building community and having individuals communicate with one another are at the heart of her work. 

“I hope that this work builds deeper connections with the artists who are part of the larger Chapel Hill community who might find that they might not be seen or feel welcome in some of these spaces,” she says. “I also hope that this fellowship with other incredible artists will help the Chapel Hill community recognize how vital arts practices are to a strong, sustainable, and healthy community.”

Michele Lynn

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