Okwui Okpokwasili on Poor People’s TV Room


♪ Gonna dance on your head ♪ ♪ Gonna dance on your head ♪ ♪ Gonna dance on your head ♪ ♪ Gonna dance on your head ♪ ♪ Gonna dance on your head ♪ ♪ Gonna dance on your head ♪ ♪ Gonna dance on your head ♪ ♪ Gonna dance on your head ♪ – My name’s Okwui Okpokwasili
and I will be here at ICA. I am the creator and a performer
in Poor People’s TV Room. (ethereal music) Poor People’s TV Room is
basically a piece that explores the collectivity of a
multi-generational group of brown women. It is about how we lean in to each other, how we project on to each other. It is about a twinning. It is about the past and the future. It is also concerned with memory and how the people who have
come before you live on in you in the most mysterious of ways. So the initial kernel of Poor
People’s TV Room came about because as the Boko Haram
crisis was happening and something like, I believe 300 young women were kidnapped from the Chibok school, and there was this huge
movement that arose out of it and it became this viral
sensation, “bring back our girls.” I was just really interested
in the origins of that phrase. it came from a former Vice President of the African World Bank who
was speaking to the mothers of these women and also trying to speak to the Nigerian government,
saying “Bring back our girls.” But as the viral sensation took hold, I felt the presence of these
women who had initiated this movement, kind of
started to, it was elided. It disappeared. It just drew me bac k to,
sort of, other movements other instances of the
agency of African women. The political and social
agency of African women. Those who have disappeared,
or been sort of replaced. What surfaces in the place
of these women who are active agents of change in their
own lives are these victim narratives, the narratives
where they have to be saved and rescued. So I started to think about “Oh
wait a minute,” wasn’t there this story of these women
in southeastern Nigeria who engaged in this massive resistance against the European colonial powers and also against the
indigenous representatives of the European colonial powers? And it was called the Woman’s War. So I started to look into that. And then I was really fascinated
because the Woman’s War, another name for it was the
Women’s Egwú, the Grand Egwú, and egwú in Igbo it means
dance or performance, right? And I started to think, “Of course!” These embodied protests,
or most embodied protests, spaces where people come
together to kind of speak in one voice and air particular
grievances or ask for some kind of redress, it is a performance. The thing that I
love is going into a space where the audience and I, where
we can be deeply entangled in each other. Where there’s some “let go of
all of the expectations that you might have” around coming
in to a performance piece. I’m not here to teach you
anything that you don’t know. What I am here is to reveal
something between us that you just haven’t done before, maybe. So that’s what I hope, that
people can come in to the space with the willingness to go
somewhere that I’m going and we will go together. Maybe we won’t get there at the same time, it might not look the
same when we get there, but I’m in this place and I’m working in a psychic and energetic field that is charged by the
presence of the audience. The audience should expect
to see, I hope, ghosts.

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