Themes of Social Justice in the 2018 Performance Series

January 30, 2018

Step Afrika!

The 2018 Performance Series provides a clear picture of the Delaware Art Museum’s commitment to becoming an anchor cultural institution in an urban setting. As a part of our exciting and inclusive new strategic vision, we are dedicated to community and the arts by offering engaging programming in all art forms. The Performance Series represents a concerted effort to bring community members from all walks of life into contact with works that push artistic boundaries and encourage discussion around challenging topics within the social and political context of the present day.

In this blog post we’ll explore the social justice track:

The events of the last two years have exposed many Americans to realities that we didn’t know existed, and have seemingly given power to groups which were thought to have long been marginalized, if not eliminated. The art practices of Step Afrika!, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and Okwui Okpokwasili all speak to, and ask questions of, our current social climate. Step Afrika!’s performance Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence will not only provide context for how our urban communities began to form in the mid-1900s, but also take us back to West Africa, bring us through the middle passage, and drop us off in the rural south as slaves. Reminding us of the past that brought us to where we are today.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph

In /peh-LO-tah/, Marc Bamuthi Joseph will use powerful spoken-word, the movement vocabulary of soccer, vibrant projections, and beat-boxing to help us connect to the daily lives of immigrants throughout the United States. Okwui Okpokwasili’s Poor Peoples TV Room bridges the dual focus of the performance series by using a boundary pushing mix of dance, projections, music, and spoken word to address the amnesia around events affecting marginalized communities, in this case the 1929 Nigerian Women’s War and the two hundred and seventy six girls abducted by Boko Haram in 2014.

It is no accident that these artists were selected this year, as we remember the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination, the uprising in Wilmington’s neighborhoods, and the subsequent nine-month occupation by the National Guard—the longest occupation in the history of the United States. In 2018, the Museum will serve as a place of healing, a place to find context, and a place for our diverse community to wrestle with this largely ignored past.

Okwui Okpokwasili

Extensive partnerships with organizations across Wilmington have helped us to reach outside of the Museum’s walls. Step Afrika! is being offered through a partnership with the Grand Opera House, and the extensive educational component is being offered through a partnership with the Delaware Institute for the Arts in Education. Over 2200 students will attend school performances of Step Afrika!’s Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence and nearly 1500 students will experience artist residencies based on the performance’s content. Along with Joseph’s /pe-LO-tah/ , the Museum will be partnering with the Future Soccer Stars foundation to bring his residency Moving and Passing to children from across Wilmington and the surrounding areas. Moving and Passing is an outreach program that puts cultural expression and sports on the same level in an effort to position the strategies used on the fields as the same strategies used in navigating immigration issues. These are just a few examples of partnerships that will help the Museum reach more of our community.

We hope you’ll join us. The full Performance Series schedule can be found here.

Jonathan Whitney
Manager of Performance Programs & Community Engagement

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