Jaamil Olawale Kosoko explores loss, resurrection, and paranormal activity with Séancers at FringeArts

FringeArts presents Séancers, a visceral journey into the surreal and fantastical states of Black imagination from Nigerian-American poet, curator, and performance artist Jaamil Olawale Kosoko. This haunting and transformative interrogation of personal and cultural loss comes to FringeArts’ waterfront headquarters—140 N Columbus Blvd—May 10th-12th. Tickets cost between $15 and $29 and are available by phone (215-413- 1318) or online at FringeArts.com.

With majesty, opulence, and agency, Séancers explores how the American racialized body uses psychic, spiritual, and theoretical strategies to shapeshift through loss and oppression. Utilizing a blend of lyrical poetry, movement forms, and discursive performance, the acclaimed artist guides audiences through a nonlinear spiritual ceremony that sees him traversing the axis of abstraction, illegibility, and gender multiplicity. Accompanying him with a live performance is sound artist Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste, along with a different artist-theorist each night—a guest séancer—who helps frame the witnessing of each performance. This presentation will feature cultural historian and choreographer Brenda Dixon Gottschild, Ph.D. (May 10); documentarian and multimedia artist Sosena Solomon (May 11); and scholar and professor Christina Knight, Ph.D. (May 12).

Séancers builds on Kosoko’s internationally acclaimed work #negrophobiawhich explored the erotic fear associated with the Black body along with themes of surveillance, confinement, grief, and trauma, all tied to the then-recent loss of his younger brother to an act of senseless violence. Many observers described it as a kind of séance and in turn, Kosoko decided to dive deeper into this otherworldly realm. “It felt like a natural progression to lean more into themes of paranormal activity, loss, and resurrection as it relates to Black identities,” he noted in an interview with FringeArts.

By the time Séancers was in development, Kosoko received word of his father’s passing, making him the sole living member of his entire immediate family. In a recent New York Times profile Kosoko mused, “I’m thinking a lot about trying to heal, strategies of survival that have been embedded in black thought, black life, really since black people landed on the Americas—about larger societal traumas and my own personal traumas and how they’re engaged in this dance.” In this way, Séancers reaches beyond personal loss to encompass cultural loss as well. Additionally, in that same profile, he expressed interest in “ideas that may be extinct or dying,” particularly those that relate to the black church, black folk traditions, and the old modes of congregating they represent.

Kosoko cites four works by black women artists and thinkers as particular inspirations: Audre Lorde’s “Power” by Audre Lord; Free, White, and 21 by Howardena Pindell; a speech Ruby Sales gave on an episode of On Being entitled, “Where Does It Hurt?“; and In the Wake: On Blackness and Being by Christina Sharpe.

Séancers marks Kosoko’s first new work since being named a Princeton Arts Fellow, a prestigious two-year award and teaching fellowship for early career artists who’ve demonstrated extraordinary promise and achievement in their field.

SÉANCERS by Jaamil Olawale Kosoko
May 10 at 8 pm | Featuring guest séancer Brenda Dixon Gottschild, PhD
May 11 at 8 pm | Featuring guest séancer Sosena Solomon
May 12 at 8 pm | Featuring guest séancer Christina Knight, PhD
FringeArts, 140 N. Columbus Blvd. (at Race St.), Philadelphia, PA 19106
Tickets: $29 | $20.30 for Members | $15 for Students/25-and-under and PhiladelphiaDANCE.org Members
Call 215-413-1318 or visit www.fringearts.com to purchase tickets.


Séancers by Jaamil Olawale Kosoko
Sound Design: Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste
Associate Producer/Projects Manager: Kimya Imani Jackson
Lighting Design: Serena Wong
Set/Costume Design: Jaamil Olawale Kosoko
Set Décor/Construction: Devin N. Morris
Dramaturgy: Emily Reilly
Associate Costume Design & Fabrication: Simone Duff
Video Installation: Andrew Amorim

Featured Photo by Andrew Amorim