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An interdisciplinary performance project that digs into Queerness in the Divine.
99 backers pledged $4,123 to help bring this project to life.

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We dig into the Divine. 

About Oba Qween Baba King Baba

March 28th-30th at the Danspace Project at St. Marks Church we come together to share a celebration and a wound, an interdisciplinary journey of Queerness in the Divine. We’re making new mythologies, from the conjured and the imagined spaces of slave galleries. A stellar collective of Queer and Trans artists of Color, Women of Color, Immigrants, and Allies light up the floor with projections, embody a range of live and original sound compositions, shake down the room with poetic invocations and transform ourselves with art objects and costumes.

performer Kirsten Davis
performer Kirsten Davis

Digging Deeper into Oba Qween

This piece is a queering of Black Christian and Spiritual iconographies, a digital landscape that activates the ghosts in the corners, and a piece made from a complex discography spanning Afro-Baptist, Jazz, Yorùbá, and Hip-Hop musical forms.  The text is a wild tapestry: an original invocation is delivered each night, the performers speak and sing abstracted original text from the personal narratives of Queer and Trans children of preachers. We propose a new Queer congregation and notions of congregating, where we lift and interrogate the bruises of the Father.

performer/director Ni'Ja Whitson
performer/director Ni'Ja Whitson

Why this work matters right now/ What brought us into the room

This is the second in a trilogy of works looking at non-binarism in Black Queer lives. In this work, I am exploring where binarism and hierarchies intersect the architectural, spiritual and religious.

When I was asked to participate in the annual Platforms festival at Danspace Project, I began to interrogate slave galleries and I was brought up close to my own relationship to Christianity and my estranged father, a baptist preacher. I was brought up close to my queerness and gender queerness, Òrìsà practices, the beautiful and buried. 

Who is in the room

Spirit Marshals - Sara Abdullah, Aye Eckerson, Michelle Kariuji, Nana Minder, Manny Rivera, Marya Wethers.

Artistic Director, Direction/Choreography, Sound Design & Curation, Performer - Ni'Ja Whitson referred to as “majestic” and "magnetic" by The New York Times and is recognized by Brooklyn Magazine as a culture influencer. Ni'Ja is a 2018 MAP Fund recipient, featured choreographer of the 2018 CCA Biennial, and UBW Choreographic Center Fellow Candidate. 

Invocation - Djola Branner Djola Branner combines movement, sound and light to create narratives historically absent from the American stage. Co-founder of the award winning Pomo Afro Homos, he toured nationally and internationally with their shows Fierce Love: Stories from Black Gay Life and Dark Fruit, and subsequently performed in regional theatres across the country. 

Performer, Founding Company Member - Kirsten Davis earned their BA in Dance Movement Therapy from Hunter College while performing with the National Liturgical Dance Network in Bridgetown, Barbados and Canberra, Australia. Recently, Davis has worked with movement based choreographers Ursula Eagly, Maura Donohue, and Chafin Seymour. 

Performer - Shayla Vie-Jenkins  is a performer, teacher, and maker currently based in Philadelphia.  She holds an MFA from Smith College and BFA from the Ailey/Fordham BFA program. Jenkins spent a decade (2005-2015) performing with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, and serves as a teaching artist and répétiteur. 

Performer - Annie Wang  trained at Martha Graham and at the Boitsov School of Ballet. She is a dancer with Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group and has also worked with Parijat Desai, Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch, Pia Vinson, and MADArt Productions.

Sound Designer - Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste is a New York-Based artist, composer, and performer considering notions of errant relations which thrive across subjectivities.  Toussaint-Baptiste was a 2017 Artist-in-Residence at Issue Project Room and received a Bessie Award in 2018 for Outstanding Music Composition and Sound Design.

Sound Designer (invocation & parasols) - AJ McClenon was born and raised in "D.C. proper," and is currently based in Chicago using performance practices, sound, video, movement, theatre and writing to share experiences living in a Black body. AJ holds a Masters in Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received a Bachelor of Arts with a minor in creative writing from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Composer/Live Musician - Douglas R. Ewart - The polymathic Douglas R. Ewart has been honored for his work as a composer, improvising multi-instrumentalist, conceptual artist, sculptor, mask and instrument designer, builder and more.  As an educator, Ewart bridges his kaleidoscopic activities with a vision that opposes today’s divided world by culture-fusing works that aim to restore the wholeness of communities and their members, and to emphasize the reality of the world’s interdependence.

Lighting Designer - Tuçe Yasak graduated from the Department of Industrial Design at Middle East Technical University in Turkey. She designs for dance and is interested in site-specific performances, light installations, architectural and urban lighting.

Costume Design - Peiyi Wong Peiyi Wong is a Los Angeles and New York-based scenographer and interdisciplinary artist. She designs sets and costumes for theater, opera, dance, and film with a particular interest in experimental and cross-disciplinary modes of expression and collaboration.

Video Design - Gil Sperling Gil Sperling is a multimedia artist, performance maker and video designer. He has created short films and video installations, video design for the stage, and multimedia performances. Gil is a graduate of the School of Visual Theater in Jerusalem and hold a B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy.

Risks and challenges

We are now in a critical moment just months before the premiere. Support will go to the talented members of the creative team and to rent production equipment in order to realize the complicated digital installation elements. We received the incredible blessing of a MAP Fund award that has covered most of our artist fees but our team and tech needs have grown beyond the capacity of that resource and we need your help.

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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    10-Track Discography & Circle Shout Out

    We've built the work around dozens of tracks from around the world. The discography has been the way we've charted the biographical narratives in the work across time and body. We'll share 10 tracks with you.

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    Circle Keeper Program Dedication

    Circle Keepers are you! The Dear Ones who are committed to seeing this work and us grow. Every person that donates (unless requested otherwise, of course) will have their name listed in the program. Circle Keepers will also be announced every day in an instagram or facebook live post.

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    Name/Prayer/Intention on We Write Love

    We want to cultivate and collect the healing invocations. This reward will publish your intention or prayer for a Queer Trans Person of Color on our We Write Love blog series.

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    A Seat at the Site/Sight Line of God

    The performance is designed to be seen from above, with a limited number of audience members seated in the space's upper gallery. This reward guarantees your seat!

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    A Seat at the Site/Sight Line of God +1

    Invite a friend to accompany you in the upper gallery!

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    Name or Intention included in invocation

    Each performance includes a live invocation (intentional opening of the space merging Black spiritual, poetic, emcee, ringleader traditions). We'll include your name, intention, or prayer in one evening's performance. Of course, good vibes, good feels, empowered wishes only!

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    Signed Usher Gloves from Performance

    Usher Gloves from Black Church traditions will be worn during the performance ritual/celebration. Circle Keepers at this level will receive one pair signed by members of the creative and performance team!

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Funding period

- (20 days)