Marjani Fortè-Saunders and Devon Cunningham Activate Simphiwe Ndzube’s Chorus
On the occasion of Simphiwe Ndzube’s solo exhibition Chorus, BLUM Los Angeles presents a series of activations. Choreographed and danced by celebrated performance artist Marjani Fortè-Saunders, this site-specific work was created in response to Ndzube’s Chorus and the exhibition’s exploration of music as a tool of resistance in the face of oppression. Prior to the dance, a sound bowl meditation is presented by artist and community healer Devon Cunningham.
About Marjani Forté-Saunders
Marjani Forté-Saunders is a three time Bessie award winning choreographer, performer, teaching artist, and Mother. She is a recent awardee of the prestigious Dance Magazine Harkness Award (2020) and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Fellowship. She is an inaugural recipient of three distinguishing fellowships in dance, including Urban Bush Women’s Choreographic Center Initiative Fellowship (2017), the Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship (2018), and the DanceUSA Artist Fellowship (2019). Her latest work Garden of Unicorns- a Surrealist Ode to Blondell Cummings was an installation in The Getty Gardens as part of the Ever Present Series, curated by Kristin Juarez and Sarah Cooper. Saunders was a touring artist for five years, with Urban Bush Women Dance Company (UBW) and the first artist (beyond Cummings) to perform Blondell Cumming’s American Masterpiece Chicken Soup.
Saunders is a founding member of the collective 7NMS|Art x Power, alongside composer/sound designer Everett Saunders. 7NMS are recipients of New Music USA Award (2021), the MAP Fund (2020), and the National Dance Project Production & Touring award for their latest work Prophet: The Order of the Lyricist. Prophet recently had its Los Angeles premiere at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT), and will present next at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in May 2024.
In 2022, Saunders made her off-broadway debut as choreographer of Dreaming Zenzile, written and starring grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Somi Kakoma, and directed by Drama League Founder’s Award winning artist Lileana Blain-Cruz. Commercially, Saunders has worked with Sundance Award winning director Kahlil Joseph, Kevin Willmott, Kevin Everson, and Tracee Ellis Ross’ product launch video campaign for Pattern. Humbly, she defines her work by its lineage stemming from culturally rich, vibrant, historic, loving, irreverent conjurers.
About Devon Cunningham
Devon Cunningham is an artist and community healer. A passionate and enthusiastic student of continuous learning and personal growth through traditional therapy, intuitive studies, guidance, and nature, Cunningham finds self-exploration a key ingredient to world transformation.
With a variety of professional experiences in contracting, corporate America, pre-school education, and mothering, Cunningham now spends much of her time working in collectivity and individually with students, activists, and artists to provide opportunities for people to check-in, connect, and clarify their needs, dreams, and blocks. Though familiar with the power of music, specifically jazz, since a young girl, her spiritual journey with music began in 2018 when led to the mountains of Cuenca, Ecuador to study varied spiritual wellness forms. There, she studied with Shamans, learned indigenous practices of healing and connecting with the earth, and was called to sound alchemy.
Cunningham co-organizes the 28 day Global Dance Meditation envisioned by Dr. Shamell Bell, provides sound bowl meditations for students at Harvard, Dartmouth, Brown, UCLA, Colgate University, and USC to name a few, as well as artists and community organizers in Los Angeles. She also volunteers for LA City parks and recreational centers teaching inner city children ages 6–13 sound bowl meditation. Devon is also an instructor at the LA County parks and recreational centers and Liberate Yourself located in Los Angeles. Any day of the week, you can find Cunningham somewhere sharing her gift with others.
About Simphiwe Ndzube
Simphiwe Ndzube lives and works in Los Angeles, CA and Cape Town, South Africa. He received his BFA from the Michaelis School of Fine Arts in 2015. Recent solo exhibitions include Oracles of the Pink Universe, Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO (2021); The Rain Prayers, Museo Kaluz, Mexico City, Mexico (2019); Bhabharosi, The Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL (2018); and Waiting for Mulungu, CC Foundation, Shanghai, China (2018). His installation In the Land of the Blind the One Eyed Man is King? (2019) was included in the 2019 Lyon Biennale. His work is collected by the Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO; Fondation Gandur pour l'Art, Geneva, Switzerland; HOW Art Museum, Shanghai, China; Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Musée d’art Contemporain de Lyon, France; Rubell Museum, Miami, FL; Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, South Africa; among many others.