Bio – Ni’Ja Whitson
Ni’Ja Whitson is an interdisciplinary artist and writer whose work engages a nexus of postmodern and African diasporic performance practices. She is the recipient of a 2013 Movement Research Artist in Residency Award, commissioned to create a new interdisciplinary performance work, and a member of the Hemispheric Institute’s Working Group in Dance. She has served as assistant choreographer to Dianne McIntyre for the Goodman Theater’s production of Crowns, directed and written by Regina Taylor, and recently completed an international tour of her interdisciplinary solo work root shock including invitations in New York, Canada, and Chicago. She is noted as an innovating practitioner of the Theatrical Jazz Aesthetic and has also co-facilitated training internationally as well as in collaboration with Sharon Bridgforth hosted by Links Hall and the Theatre School at DePaul University. Whitson has worked with a range of artists including Guillermo Gomez Peña / La Pocha Nostra, April Berry, Allison Knowles, Darrell Jones, Dee Alexander, and Douglas Ewart.
As a performer, Whitson has been commissioned across genres for her rich diversity of skills. She has been invited for artist and master class residencies across the country, including receiving the 2013 artist in residence commission at Lake Forest College, and with state-wide queer artists of color organization Allgo, in Austin Texas, with partner and collaborator, Oluseyi Adebanjo. As a percussionist and dance soloist of Inventions/Nyabinghi Choir, directed by Douglas Ewart, Whitson has performed in multiple venues with award-winning artists including recording a live album at the legendary Velvet Lounge.
In collaboration with Oluseyi Adebanjo, Whitson curates Queer Acts (Art. Community. Thought. Spirit.) in New York City, a monthly critical art series engaging Queer film, writing, and performance of the African Diaspora. In its inaugural year, the series facilitated conversations on the work of international artists, and witnessed inter-generational and inter-cultural audiences.
Whitson’s writing includes critical essays, poetry, experimental non-fiction, and performance/writing in the performance/novel and Theatrical Jazz Aesthetic tradition. Her work has been published in print and online journals including, Stories: A Room of Her Own; Area 21; and have been performed widely.
Whitson has been awarded residencies, grants, and recognition across artistic disciplines, including: an Illinois Arts Council grant; LinkUI residency award; Lisa Dershin residency award; Chicago DanceBridge residency; John G. Curtis Jr. Visual Art Prize; two Archibald Motley Visual Art Grants; a 3Arts Visual Artist Award nomination; Mellon Research Fellowship; and a Fellowship Award from the school of the Art Institute where she received her MFA. She is featured in Living Thinkers: Black Women and the Ivory Tower, and is currently an adjunct assistant professor at Hunter College and a full-time lecturer at Lehman College.