Doris Duke Artist Awards

Okwui Okpokwasili

Choreographer, Performer and Writer

Brooklyn, New York

Okwui Okpokwasili is a seminal figure in the New York experimental dance scene, creating multidisciplinary performances at the intersection of theater, dance and installation art that are raw, intimate experiences for her audiences. Raised in the Bronx by Igbo-Nigerian parents, she frequently draws inspiration from historical events in Nigeria, such as in her works “when I return who will receive me” and “Poor People’s TV Room.”

Okpokwasili is known for several of her one-woman performances, including a 2017 site-specific dance at MASS MoCA responding to Nick Cave’s massive installation art, as well as many collaborations with choreographer Ralph Lemon and Peter Born, her husband. Themes of gender, identity and politics often populate these works. In “Bronx Gothic,” Okpokwasili’s performance which she also choreographed, she played two young black girls navigating their relationship while on the brink of puberty. “Bronx Gothic” explores the entanglement of desire and violence at a moment of sexual awakening.

Okpokwasili has won multiple Bessie Awards, including one in 2014 for the production of “Bronx Gothic.” She has also won a 2018 United States Artists Award, 2018 Herb Alpert Award in Dance, 2016 Creative Capital Award, 2015 National Dance Project Touring Award and 2014 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award in Dance. She was the New York Live Arts Randjelovic/Stryker Resident Commissioned Artist from 2015 to 2017 and was commissioned for the Berlin Biennale in 2018.


See the other 2018 Doris Duke Artists