"#PUNK 100% POP *N!GGA", Nora Chipaumire
“#PUNK 100% POP *N!GGA”, Nora Chipaumire © Ian Douglas

Tanz im August Interview Series: Nora Chipaumire

Nora Chipaumire returns to Tanz im August with her latest work, “#PUNK 100% POP *N!GGA”. Provocative, joyful, and challenging, this three-part live performance album is demanding for performers and audience alike.

How do you view the audience’s role in the piece?
Well they are the piece! They all make the mistake of thinking that we’re the piece while, unbeknownst to them, they’re playing their parts to the hilt, which I think is fantastic. They surround us, looking at each other, wondering if they can make some collective decision. Should they run away? Should they stay? Should they follow our instructions, or refuse? I see the audience as authors of the space, choreographing its politics through their solidarity, complicity, or point-blank refusal. The performance space is a constituency, and the audience must vote one way or the other!

Has there been a reaction from an audience where you thought: “Yes, this is what it’s all about!”?
All the time – for better or worse! Whether it’s hitting its mark and they’re in complete solidarity with the ideology, or if the opposite is true, it’s exactly as it should be. We don’t have to agree with each other, but we’re sharing the space, so we’re making reparations together. There’s no opportunity to take a comfortable distance. The action unfolds right there in front of you and you’re unavoidably a part of it. It’s living politics.

How do you see Berlin as a political context for this work?
Performing my work in the former East, where blackness is less present on a daily basis, you see people trying to figure out how they should react. I’m also curious about how it’s going to feel in Berlin when we start shouting out these 1980s references, like ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ and ‘The Berlin Wall’. In a way, Berlin is the front line. It’s the trenches. This is where history has been played out, with people power-broking around issues that have formed me right back to the Berlin Conference in 1884. And it’s not just me personally who’s been shaped this way – the whole world has been affected by places like Berlin and Paris.

The piece includes a utopian re-imagining of your childhood – is the idea of utopia important in your work?
It has to be utopia and dystopia. You can’t have one without the other! And I don’t think the story of Africa, for example, can be purely utopian. We’ve been so disappointed, yet we’re still here. In many ways our power of survival is in itself utopia. I see my own Zimbabwean people as marvellously courageous – and perhaps history will vindicate us. I believe the same of all African peoples, both on the continent and in the diaspora. So I’m hopeful, but also pragmatic. In the end, I can’t make the world any less paradoxical! These are difficult times, but they’re also interesting times – and I feel very lucky to have been born into interesting times. Our world is a conundrum, but it’s a joyful one. I intend to enjoy it for as long as I can!

A Co-operation between Tanzbüro Berlin and Tanz im August 2019
Our tanzschreiber authors Alexandra Hennig, Beatrix Joyce and David Pallant were invited to interview the Tanz im August 2019 artists Nora Chipaumire, deufert&plischke, Nicola Gunn, Gunilla Heilborn and Claire Vivianne Sobottke. All interviews will be published on www.tanzschreiber.de and www.tanzimaugust.de/magazin