Creative Capital and Bessie Award-winner, gender nonconforming/astral transmogrifier, interdisciplinary artist and writer, Ni’Ja Whitson, has been 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 2018-2020 UBW Choreographic Center Fellow. Other recent awards include a US Artists Fellowship nominee, Shortlist for the Tarpaulin Book Award (The Unarrival Experiments), Camargo/Jerome Foundation Fellowship, Dance in Process (DiP) Residency, Hedgebrook Fellowship, LMCC Process Space Residency, Bogliasco Fellowship, Brooklyn Arts Exchange Artist Residency, among dozens of other residencies and awards across disciplines.
Whitson has been a student and practitioner of indigenous African ritual and resistance forms for nearly two decades, creating work that reflects the sacred in street, conceptual, and interdisciplinary performance. They engage a nexus of postmodern and African Diasporic performance practices, through a critical intersection of gender, sexuality, race, and spirituality. Working internationally, creative efforts include collaborations and performance in theater, dance, music, and visual art with artists including Douglas Ewart, Cynthia Oliver, Jaamil Kosoko, Sharon Bridgforth, Dianne McIntyre, Charlotte Brathwaite, La Pocha Nostra, Daniel Alexander Jones, Baba Israel, Byron Au Yong and Aaron Jafferis. A noted innovating practitioner of the Theatrical Jazz Aesthetic and accomplished improviser Whitson performs nationally with renowned musicians and enjoys a close collaborative partnership with Douglas Ewart of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Ensembles have included Oliver Lake, JD Parran, Matt Shipp, Edward Wilkerson Jr., Mankwe Ndosi, Tatsu Aoki, and Joseph Jarmon. Whitson’s award-winning practice extends to choreography, directing, and dramaturgy in conventional and experimental theatre with artists such as Dianne McIntyre, Regina Taylor, Susan Watson-Turner, Emily Mendelsohn, Charlotte Brathwaite, Daniel Alexander Jone, and he collaborative team Byron Au Yong and Aaron Jafferis. Recent Commissions and residencies include opening artist of the 2018 Cornell Center for the Arts Biennial, EMPAC, Danspace at St. Marks Church, LaMaMa Moves! Festival, Vision Festival, PRELUDE Festival, and Harlem Stage. Whitson’s evening-length work, A Meditation on Tongues, premiered to sold out New York audiences at the American Realness festival, received a Critic’s Pick from the New York Times and toured nationally. Whitson’s 2019 premiere Oba Qween Baba King Baba received three Bessie nominations including Outstanding Production, Outstanding Design (of which Ni’Ja was co-costume designer) and Outstanding Performance (Kirsten Davis).
Other recognitions and awards include several New York Times, Time Out New York and Chicago Critic’s Picks, Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Outstanding Ensemble Award, Downtown Urban Theatre Festival Audience Award, Vermont Studio Center Writing Residency, LinkUp Inaugural Artist in Residence, Chicago DanceBridge Residency, John G. Curtis Jr. Prize, Archibald Motley Grant, 3Arts Visual Artist Award Nomination, and a MFA Fellowship Award from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Ni’Ja Whitson engages an active bi-coastal practice as an Assistant Professor at University of California Riverside, and received a second MFA at Goddard College in creative writing as the recipient of an Engaged Artist Award.