Witness the Spirit and Power of Nehanda, Sept. 23

Witness the Spirit and Power of Nehanda, Sept. 23

Peter Van Heerden and nora chipaumire rehearse Nehanda.

Peter Van Heerden will perform in nora chipaumire's Nehanda opera on Sept. 23.

The Quick Center will host the premiere performance of nora chipaumire’s radical pedagogical opera.

Fairfield University’s Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts will present nora chipaumire in her newest work, Nehanda, at 6 p.m. on Friday, September 23. With the electric charge of a political rally and the power of a ritual, this performance — structured in seven scenarios called ‘days’— is an immersive, participatory, and durational spectacle. Conceived as a radical pedagogical opera, Nehanda features melodies and musical instruments that wholly subvert the operatic form: turntables, Ngoma drums, mbira, and samples of field recordings.

Chipaumire describes the titular character Nehanda — a legendary female spirit — as a “Zimbabwean Joan of Arc.” The opera investigates the myth of Nehanda, who was venerated by the Shona people and demonized by the British empire in the late 19th century.

Peter Van Heerden, executive director of the Quick Center for the Arts, will perform in Nehanda, appearing onstage at the Quick for the first time. “I am honored to participate in this incredible performance project which brings me back to my roots in many ways,” said Van Heerden, a native of South Africa who holds a master's degree in theatre and performance from the University of Cape Town.

A powerful portrait of anti-colonial resistance, portions of Nehanda come direct from touring opera houses across Europe in 2021 and a run at PEAK Performances at Montclair State University earlier this month. The Quick Center performance on Sept. 23 will mark the first live production of the five-and-a-half-hour opera in its entirety.

“This feels like a historic occasion long in the making,” said Lori Jones, Quick Center director of programming and audience development. “Nora’s work challenges us – the ritual nature of this work transforms and begs us to question our role as spectator. And we are so incredibly honored to show the entire piece for the first time in front of a live audience.”

The Quick has been an avid supporter of nora chipaumire’s work, having originally hosted her in 2018 as a performer and artist-in-residence, and again in 2019 for a two-week residency that marked the beginning of the research phase for Nehanda, her largest project to date.

During their most recent three-month Quick Center residency in spring 2021, chipaumire and her team created Nehanda with support, in part, from a grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

In addition to being an artist-in-residence, chipaumire serves as a senior fellow in Fairfield University’s College of Arts and Sciences, engaging in educational conversations and programs with the campus and larger Fairfield and Bridgeport communities around the themes of Nehanda.

Nehanda will be presented for one night only on Friday, September 23 at 6 p.m. The performance is supported, in part, by WPKN 89.5. Tickets are on sale now for only $30, or $20 for Quick Members at quickcenter.com, where you can also become a Quick Member. For more information, contact the Quick Center Box Office at 203-254-4010, Monday through Friday, from 12 to 5 p.m.


Date: Friday, Sept. 23, 2022
Time: 6 p.m.
Location: Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts

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