Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born’s multidisciplinary performances intersect at the meeting point of dance, theater, and visual art, expanding the formal boundaries, creative framework, and narrative possibilities of contemporary performance. Combining movement, song, and storytelling, their work reframes the oral traditions of West African griot poets and musicians, importing and updating ancient techniques for contemporary audiences. As a first-generation U.S. citizen born of Nigerian immigrant parents, Okpokwasili creates work as both an American and an outsider; her identity is rooted in the African traditions taught to her by her parents, but mixed with the American culture she experienced growing up in the United States.

Okpokwasili and Born create stories that unearth nearly forgotten narratives — particularly those of Black women — and pursue themes that historicize and memorialize their stories. In this chapter of a larger speculative mythology, a precolonial African village is at the cusp of a major upheaval. The community is entangled in an argument that could shape the future of all of their lives. This collective reckoning explores the fraught relationship between ancestors, future generations, and the role of ritual. A sonic and visual landscape of reflective textures, contouring shadows, and thrumming facilitates an intimate exchange between performers and the audience.

By abandoning traditional linear narrative structures, Okpokwasili and Born’s performance unfolds within the past and present simultaneously, allowing the ghosts of history to haunt and inhabit our present.

Seats are sold as general admission tickets and are selected in the theater on a first-come, first-served basis.

Read the program

Artist Bios

Okwui Okpokwasili is a writer, performer, and choreographer. In partnership with collaborator Peter Born, Okpokwasili creates multidisciplinary projects that are raw, intimate experiences. As a performer, Okpokwasili frequently collaborates with director and choreographer Ralph Lemon, including Come Home, Charley Patton (2006), for which she won a “Bessie” Award for Outstanding Performer; How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere? (2010), a duet performed at the Museum of Modern Art as part of On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century (2011), and Scaffold Room (2014). Okpokwasili has appeared as an actor in many productions including Richard Maxwell’s Cowboys and Indians (1999), Richard Foreman’s Maria del Bosco (2001), Kristin Marting’s Sounding (2009), Joan Dark (2009), Young Jean Lee’s Lear (2010), Nora Chipaumire’s Miriam (2012), and Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2013). Film credits include The Interpreter (2005), The Hoax (2006), I Am Legend (2007), Knut Åsdam’s Abyss (2010), and Malorie’s Final Score (2013). 

Peter Born is a director, designer, and filmmaker. In addition to his work with Okwui Okpokwasili, he collaborates with David Thomson on a cycle of installation/performances revolving around a post-sexual incarnation of Venus. He created the set for Nora Chipaumire’s rite/riot, and he has created performance videos with Chipaumire, including El Capitan Kinglady. He is a former New York public high school teacher, an itinerant oral designer, corporate actor-facilitator and furniture designer. His collaborations with Okpokwasili have garnered two New York Dance Performance “Bessie” Awards. 


  • Assistive listening devices are available for all theater programs at the theater entrance.
  • A link to live captioning will be shared by the day of the event and will be available in the theater.
  • ASL interpretation is available by advance request; please contact the Box Office at 617-478-3103 or visitorservices@icaboston.org to make a request.

Are there other access accommodations that would be useful to help you fully participate in this program? Let us know at accessibility@icaboston.org or learn more about Accessibility at the ICA at icaboston.org/accessibility.

adaku, part 1: the road opens was commissioned by the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston and co-commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

adaku, part 1: the road opens was developed in a Studio Residency at The Museum of Modern Art, as part of the Hyundai Card Performance Series, and a 2023 Summer Stages Dance @ ICA/Boston residency. Summer Stages Dance @ ICA/Boston is made possible, in part, with the support of Jane Karol and Howard Cooper, George and Ann Colony, David Parker, The Aliad Fund, and Stephanie and Leander McCormick-Goodhart. adaku, part 1: the road opens was also developed during a residency at the Brown Arts Institute at Brown University and a residency at the Mercury Store in Brooklyn, NY. 

Support for this performance is generously provided by Leslie Riedel and Scott Friend.