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Nora Chipaumire in MIRIAM. Photo by Olivier Clausse.^494

Nora Chipaumire

For the past ten years, I have been investigating Africa and discovering my private iconography - stones, tennis shoes, ululations, whistles, bare light bulbs - all objects and sounds that define place. Physical movement is my first language, but words can and often do work as a barrier to, or boundary of, interpretation, understanding or meaning. In constructing my theatrical world, a world in which I have full agency and power, I have been creating self-portraits that I hope convey political, aesthetic, and historical purpose whilst complicating, implicating, and destroying the concept of the African female body as subjugated, colonial, tribal, un-knowable. My intention is to engage the "art canons," western as well as African, without selling my native culture on a global market, or losing my connection and responsibility to my native culture.

With Miriam, the mission remains the same: challenging stereotypes of Africa and the black female body by confronting history and political ideologies. What has changed is a greater implication of my own physical body. My Miriam is disobedient, obstinate, rebellious and beloved, in keeping with the meaning of her name in both its Levite and Hebrew origins. Miriam is a name carried by the mother of Jesus, the sister of Aaron and Moses, as well as the iconic singer and political activist Miriam Makeba.