A Meditation on Tongues
A Meditation on Tongues is artist Ni’Ja Whitson’s live-dance adaptation of filmmaker and activist Marlon T. Riggs’ 1989 film Tongues Untied, a groundbreaking portrait of Black, gay identity.
Staged throughout the EMPAC building, the performance begins with a solo by vogue dancer Leggoh LaBeija, who then struts down a runway to lead the audience into Studio 1. Here, Whitson and collaborator Kirsten Flores-Davis perform an extended stage duet. Whitson’s performance uses choreography, film, and sound, to underscore the historical importance of Riggs’ film during the early years of the AIDS pandemic and beyond. Whitson reconsiders Riggs’ focus on Black, gay, male identity to focus on what masculinities look like in the contemporary moment, especially in relation to the invisibility of lesbian and gender non-conforming bodies within the cultural dialogue on race.
Ni’Ja Whitson is an interdisciplinary artist, performer, and writer based in Riverside, California. They are an Assistant Professor of Dance at the University of California Riverside and have had commissions and residencies at Gedgebrook in Seattle, ICA Philadelphia, American Realness at Abrons Art Center, Danspace at St. Mark’s Church, Dance in Process at Gibney Dance, and LMCC Process Space in New York. Whitson is a Bessie award-winning performer and recipient of funding through the Mertz Gilmore Foundation and Jerome Foundation Individual Artist Grant.