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6-5-1: Okwui Okpokwasili and Maria Bauman

By 651 ARTS on January 25, 2017

Inspired by our 6-5-1 Interview series (6 questions, 5 minutes, 1 artist), this conversation features Home in the Time of Brooklyn facilitators Okwui Okpokwasili and Maria Bauman. This series was compiled across two conversations and we invite you to get to know more in this 6-5-1 variation with these two dynamic artists.

Okwui Okpokwasili and Maria Bauman - Photo by Stephanie MeiLing Photography

  1. What does home mean to you?
    • Okwui: I think home is super complicated. It’s a place that may not always be comfortable, but where I feel like I know I will be heard. It’s a place of memory, a place where I feel I build a sense of who I am, and gird myself and get ready to go out into the world.

      Maria: I think home for me is about a place of trust—and I trust that here I can be both affirmed and challenged. Home is also a place where I am seen and can see clearly. Home is a place of nourishment, of saying, “Wow! I can see myself in all of that glory and I can see other people who are part of my different families in all of their glory.” There’s something about seeing and being seen in a way that is nourishing that feels like home.
  2. What gives you hope?
    • Okwui: I don’t feel hopeful. There’s this sense that there are these larger forces in powers at play that are getting more and more ferocious, violent and I’m feeling less and less empowered to stop what’s happening. I think that Doris Duke, 651 ARTS and so many of these organizations, I’m thankful for them for having an imagination that I do not have to try to see a path and see a way. Maybe I’m also here because I’m not hopeful and I’m looking for that hope.
  3. How does Home in the Time of Brooklyn give you hope? In what ways is this program valuable for the artists, institution, partners, or for you?
    • Maria: We’re all family; I think that’s what is here. Home in the Time of Brooklyn is a microcosm of this idea that we may be inspired, challenged, pushed and grow through each others interpersonal relationships, through each other’s art. I feel incredibly inspired by Home in the Time of Brooklyn because it involves 651 ARTS, because it involves each of these individual artists, but also because it’s deliberate space where we don’t have to steal minutes out of our rehearsal or say, “Oh hey bye!” or on our way in and out of a café say, “I’ve been wanting to build with you about blah blah blah” but we never really get the time. I appreciate that it’s deliberate space where we all can be supported to have this conversation.

      Okwui: I do feel inspired and amazed by small acts of people deciding to be their own producers, deciding to generate, making groups to say,  “What can we do in our world that acknowledges our mutual trust and the value that we have for each other?” I do think that’s inspiring to look at that happen. I need this place to go to so I can keep that part of my imagination alive because otherwise I think shit is really fucked and shitty and awful.
  4. What’s a recent art experience or project that has inspired you?
    • Maria: I watched a video yesterday created by Appetite for Change in Minnesota and I was incredibly hopeful because these black young people are doing farming. They have a whole rap and video and dancing and visual campaign around growing food, and it worked! I was like, “Whippin’ in the kitchen! Whippin’ in the kitchen.” Watch the video! I was thinking that’s how we ever have gotten anything done by using our own cultural family arts and saying, “Here’s how I’m inspired. Here’s how I’m challenged. I’m going to dance about it. I’m going to sing about it. I’m going to make a video about it.” I feel incredibly hopeful when I get to see other people’s art and I say people are genius! Then I go, “Oh! If they are, I must have a little bit of that too.”

      Okwui: I think that’s funny she talks about this Appetite for Change—just yesterday I also watched a video, not Appetite for Change but it was on the Laura Flanders Show and it was about these farming cooperatives—some of them were Black communities, some of them were mixed communities—in West Virginia, generating their own energy. They’re putting up solar panels. I can’t remember the specifics of it but yes people are saying, “Yes we actually are producers” and artists are always saying this.
  5. How do you love?
    • Maria: I love through my action, in action, maybe not so much words. Through my time and through my energy. There are 3 places that get the most of it: my art-making, community-organizing, and my interpersonal sphere. The way I love is by showing up. By being with. My ability to stick around when it’s hard is probably directly related to how much I love.


    651 ARTS would like to thank Okwui Okpokwasili and Maria Bauman for answering our questions that give a better glimpse of the artists we present. Stay tuned for more artist interviews. Keep up with 651 ARTS by following us on Facebook and Twitter by clicking on the links to the right.

    Photo by Stephanie MeiLing Photography

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