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portrait of myself as my father



portrait... takes place in a simulated boxing ring in which Chipaumire and Senegalese dancer Pape Ibrahima Ndiaye, also known as Kaolack, are tied together in an exhausting and symbolic dance-ritual. They are joined by Jamaican-born, Brooklyn-based dancer Shamar Watt, who plays the coach/corner man/cheerleader/shadow.


In this performance, the spectres of the estranged father dance, struggle, and fight against prejudices, social pressures, the weight of traditions and history.The piece considers the African male through the lens of capitalism, Christianity, colonialism and liberation struggles—and how these political and cultural traditions impact the African family and society on a global scale. The imaginary daughter and father are tethered to the stage and to each other: they are both linked and opposed, and the elastic bands are a literal and figurative connection that questions family ties.


The performance also celebrates and critiques masculinity: its presence, presentation, and representation. This timely examination of black maleness asks: What is it about the black male body that we fear?

Running time: Approx. 80 minutes

Photo credits: ©Ari Marcopoulos

statement | nora chipaumire | 2014


Portrait: noun 1. a verbal picture or description usually of a person; 2. a likeness of a person especially of the face, as a painting, drawing, photograph or dance!


Father: noun a male parent who has raised a child or supplied the sperm through sexual intercourse or sperm bank.


God the father: noun a title given to god in religions such as Christianity and Judaism (in part because he is viewed as having active interest in human affairs in the way a father would take interest in his children who are dependent on him).


My father, Webster Barnabas Chipaumire, was born in 1938 and died in 1980. I had no contact or connection with him or his family from the age of five. It has taken me almost 45 years to engage with the idea of a father and what his role in a family could be. In April 2014, I returned to my father’s village in search of a way to draw his portrait. I cannot say exactly what has spurred this curiosity, but suffice it to say that these research and trip have been challenging.


Perhaps this curiosity came from his absence. Perhaps this curiosity came from compassion for the black male. Is the black male a victim of history and culture? Could the black male African body be a way to comprehend traditions, colonialism, Christianity, liberation struggles, and the impact of these ideas on the African family? Is the sacrifice of the black male body/object necessary for civilization’s god, the modernity’s god, the global capital’s god? As Stravinsky/Nijinsky suggest in their monumental work The Rite of Spring, is the sacrifice of a human being limited to primitive societies? I believe that in Africa the sacrificial offering has been the black African male, and not the young female virgin. In portrait of myself as my father, I offer a new reading of the ritual of spring as the slaughter of African maleness to feed and regenerate the capital’s god.


portrait... is less about my personal relationship (or the absence of it) with Webster Barnabas Chipaumire, than a portrait of a man who is nothing but a man of his time. I give him boxing gloves so that he can have a fighting chance. I have put him in a boxing ring to battle with himself, his shadow, his ancestors, the industrial gods and that merciless tyrant: progress. To be a black male may be challenging in the twenty first century. To be a black, African father may be unattainable.

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portrait of myself as my father has been commissioned by Peak Performances @ Montclair State University, and is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project co-commissioned by MDC Live Arts in partnership with Miami Light Project, Georgia Institute of Technology, 651 ARTS, Dance Center of Columbia College and company nora chipaumire.

The Creation Fund is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency). The work has received residency support from MANCC, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Miami Light Project, 92Y Harkness Dance Center, Amherst College, and École des Sables.

Development and production has been funded in part by The Map Fund, supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and New York State Council on the Arts.

Nora Chipaumire researched, developed and honed portrait of myself as my father  with financial, administrative and residency support from the Dance in Process Program at Gibney Dance. Additional research and development has been supported by The Africa Contemporary Arts Consortium, The Suitcase Fund, The Japan Contemporary Dance Network (JCDN/Kyoto), and Les Subsistances (Lyon, France).


The presentation of portrait of myself as my father was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

past touring |

for current dates please check the calendar


Tanz im August Festival at Sophiensaele, Berlin, Germany | August 2018

This engagement was supported by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation through USArtists International in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Howard Gilman Foundation.

Bates Dance Festival at Bates College, Lewiston, ME, USA | August 2018

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MS, USA | March 2018

Beursschouwburg, Brussels, Belgium | February 2018

Spielart Festival, Munich, Germany | November 2017

Theaterformen Festival, Hannover, Germany | June 2017


Festival de Liege, Liège, Belgium | February 2017

Colorado College,  2016. Colorado USA

University of Virginia,  2016. Richmond, Virginia. USA

Colombia College, 2016. Chicago. Illinois. USA

University of Michigan, Detroit. 2016

University of North Carolina, Nov 7, 2016. USA

Miami Light Project. 2016. Miami, Florida, USA

Theater de le Ville, Brooklyn-Paris Exchange.  2016 Paris. France

Afro Vibes. Amsterdam and Rotterdam 2016. Holland.

Fringe Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art. September, 2016. USA


Brooklyn Academy of Music, BAM Fisher. September 14-17, 2016. USA

Peak Performances at Montclair State University.  April 14-17, 2016 USA.

DUO SOLO festival, 2014. Saint Louis. Senegal.


more readings |


World Premier Video {here}

Work in Progress Video {here}

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