June 26, 2021 at 7 pm
La Plaza, The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center
114 Norfolk St, New York, NY 10002
Presented in partnership with The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center
Conceived as an opera, Nehanda investigates the myth of Nehanda, a powerful spirit, venerated by the Shona people, native of Zimbabwe and central Mozambique, who inhabits only women. In the late 19th century, Nehanda’s medium was Charwe Nyakasikana, a heroic revolutionary leader, who orchestrated the first uprisings in British-occupied Southern Rhodesia in 1896–97. Together with four comrades she was captured and, after an expedited and unjust trial, was executed by the British colonizers who were so scared that they ordered her bones and skull to be sent to the U.K. Nehanda offers a legal and philosophical defense for the first heroes of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle. The libretto is based on the infamous court case, The Queen vs. Nehanda (1898), between two sovereigns: Nehanda—mhondoro— “lion spirit” and Queen Victoria, whose long and glorified reign witnessed the rise and extension of the British empire across the world.
River To River will present one completed scene from the longer opera. The performance is designed as an immersive, participatory and durational spectacle where participants can collectively perform and investigate the process of law-making and its crucial role in the European colonial project.
nora chipaumire, artistic director | concept | design | performance
Gwinyai Moyo Rutsito, dramaturgy | shona master
McIntosh Jerahuni, dancer | mbira | voice
Othnell Mangoma Moyo, drummer | mbira | voice | dancer
Fatima Katiji, voice | hosho
Tom Jules Samie, dancer | hosho
Tyrone Isaac-Stuart, dancer | saxophone
Kei Soares-Cobb, dancer | trumpet
Peter van Heerden, actor | voice
Lucia Palmieri, voice
Sylvestre Akakpo Adzaku, stage manager
Gregory Kostroff, sound engineer
Roderick Murray, technical director
Alla Kovgan, filming
Mkrtich Mko Malkhasyan, filming
Leonie Wichmann, company management | production
Tommy Kriegsmann / ArKtype, booking
nora chipaumire was born in 1965 in what was then known as Umtali, Rhodesia (now Mutare, Zimbabwe). She is a product of colonial education for black native Africans - known as group B schooling - and has pursued other studies at the University of Zimbabwe (law) and at Mills College in Oakland, CA (dance). Until the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, chipaumire has been touring #PUNK 100%POP *N!GGA (verbalized as hashtag punk, one hundred percent pop, star nigga), a three-part live performance album, for which she received two Bessie Awards in 2019. Her ongoing work includes long-term research project "nhaka," a technology-based practice and process to her artistic work which instigates and investigates the nature of black bodies and the products of their imaginations. nhaka bhuku 1 has been published in 2020 at the courtesy of Matadero Publishing House (Spain).
Nehanda has been commissioned by Quick Center for the Arts at Fairfield University and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council as part of the Extended Life Dance Development program. It is being made possible through The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Artists “Bubble” Residency program, the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Dance Project, received friendly support from NYSCA and NEA and was developed through residencies at PACT Zollverein, Essen and CSC, Bassano del Grappa. This project is supported by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, in partnership with The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center.