A Bessie Award winning gender nonconforming interdisciplinary artist, performer 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. Recent awards include a 2018 MAP Fund Award, Camargo Fellowship, Hedgebrook Residency, LMCC Process Space Residency, Bogliasco Fellowship, Brooklyn Arts Exchange Artist Residency, two-time Creative Capital “On Our Radar” award including being in its inaugural group, 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 technology, gender, sexuality, race, and spirituality. Working internationally, creative efforts include collaborations and performance in theater, dance, music, and visual art with artists including Sharon Bridgforth, Allison Knowles, La Pocha Nostra, Darrell Jones, Merián Soto, Marjani Forté-Saunders, and Baba Israel. 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 EMPAC, the Cornell Center for the Arts Biennial, LaMaMa Moves Festival, the historic Lost and Found / Platforms Festival, Vision Festival, PRELUDE, Harlem Stage. Whitson’s evening-length work, A Meditation on Tongues, premiered to sold out New York audiences at the American Realness festival and received a Critic’s Pick from the New York Times.
Other recognitions and awards include 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 is pursuing a second MFA at Goddard College in creative writing as the recipient of an Engaged Artist Award.