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by | 13 Jul 2021 | process, symposium, who's talking?

Jessica Nupen

Jessica Nupen is a dancer, choreographer and director based in Germany. Born in Johannesburg to anti- apartheid activist parents, Nupen’s work is heavily inspired by her South African background and she has been named one of the top 100 most influential Africans in Germany. Her work incorporates contemporary dance-theatre practices with cultural and political themes, expressed in striking creations and has received recognition through celebrated tours of Europe, the US and Southern Africa, ably supported by artists including William Kentridge, Spoek Mathambo, Jürgen Schadeberg, Denis Goldberg, Dan Halter, Philipp Miller, Milo Pablo Momm, Peter Konwitschny, Leila El-Kayem and Jane Taylor. Her pieces have been performed on major stages in Germany and received features in publications and organisations such as CNN Inside Africa, Die Zeit, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Business Day, and Forbes Woman Africa. Jessica’s work has received funding from all the major cultural ministries and foundations in Germany including the Federal Fund for Culture and German Foreign Office.

Jessica grew up in Johannesburg where, as a young girl, she was exposed to the harsh brutalities of racism and the oppressiveness inflicted by a minority in power. The anti-apartheid activities of her parents allowed her to observe first-hand the enforced silence – and later the abject anger – of the black majority. These memories and experiences have had a profound impact on the way that she sees and interprets the world around her. And it is these interactions with the broader society that has led her to explore the effects and impact of gender, identity, tradition and power on people. Nupen’s work seeks to rebel against the physical, emotional and structural oppression that still exists in South Africa today, and she cites Johannesburg as a hugely inspirational space for her work.

Reflecting these complex realities with satirical undertones and wide-ranging socio-political challenges faced by younger generations from a blatantly honest perspective, Jessica has attained international acclaim and the reputation ‘dance disruptor’. Her integration of diverse media and collaboration with a range of respected artists sees in her work the expression of an eclectic choreographic vocabulary as she investigates a certain theatrical reality.

Jessica completed her formal training at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London. Her interdisciplinary dance-theatre and performance works have been presented at Kampnagel Centre for the International Contemporary Arts In Hamburg (coproducer), Deutsches Theater Munich, Theater Dortmund, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Deichtorhallen, Kunsthalle St Annen, William Kentridge’s Centre for the Less Good Idea in Johannesburg, the eigenarten and Hauptsache Frei Festivals in Hamburg, Lichthof Theater, resonanzraum, Maifestspiele Wiesbaden, Osnabrück, Mainz as part of an African Female Arts collective, at the International Oriente Occidente Dance Festival in Rovereto, Theater Lübeck, Zimbabwe, International Dance Festival in Kalamata and A Summer’s Tale Festival. She opened the 2016 South African Dance Umbrella Festival with REBELLION & JOHANNESBURG and DON’T TRUST THE BORDER opened at Kampnagel Hamburg and William Kentridge’s space The Centre for the Less Good Idea in Johannesburg in 2018.

Jessica has been awarded artistic residencies in Munich, Hamburg, and Johannesburg invited by her mentor William Kentridge. She has choreographed for international operas, musicals and dance works across Europe and South Africa. She was nominated for the Desmond Tutu Fellowship for young African leaders and provided the key-note address at the Women in Business conference in Frankfurt appointed by the late former Ambassador Makhenkesi Stofile. Jessica lectured at the NOUS platform for Female African Artists in Mainz and has been a panel speaker at international dance festivals in Europe, African and political podium discussions, diplomatic conferences in Germany. She accompanied German President Steinmeier on his state visit to Southern Africa in November 2018 as an Arts Ambassador for Germany and South Africa and met with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and further dignitaries of the South African socio-political landscape.

Her latest films: ‘REBELLION & JOHANNESBURG’ and ‘DON’T TRUST THE BORDER’ – based on the original dance pieces produced in collaboration with Berlin-based creative agency: The Adventures Of, examines and contrasts post-apartheid South Africa with post-GDR Germany and won Best Short Film at the San Francisco Dance Film Festival in October 2016 and screened at the POOL International dance Film Festival in Berlin. These films have been the topic of screenings and festivals in Maboneng at the Bioscope Cinema and at CLAM CLUB/Spotlight on Women-Berlin.

Jessica largest production to date ‘THE NOSE’ a Dance Rap Opera was due to have its World Premiere at Kampnagel on the 18th of March 2020 and was unfortunately cancelled due to Corona. The piece which comprised ensembles from Johannesburg, Cape Town, Hamburg, Berlin and Montreal will be presented in May 2021 and has been invited to be presented at the 150th anniversary of the Maifestspiele in Wiesbaden.Jessica latest works include an experimental creation entitled ‘exhibIT’ exploring the role of the human body as an art object within the context of looted African art in Europe, and ‘SPHERES & DISRUPTION’ a solo conceptualized in the space and context of William Kentridge’s largest exhibition ‘WHY SHOULD I HESITATE” at Deichtorhallen.Jessica is Founder and Director of the Movement Metropolitan e.V. which promotes platforms for international artistic collaboration in Germany.

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