Jessica Nupen is a dancer, choreographer, director, performer and creator based in Germany. Born in South Africa to anti-apartheid activist parents, Nupen’s work is heavily inspired by her South African background and she has been named one of the top 100 most influential Africans in Germany. Her work incorporates contemporary concepts with cultural and political themes, expressed in striking creations and has received recognition through celebrated tours of Europe, the US and South Africa, ably supported by artists including William Kentridge, Spoek Mathambo, Jürgen Schadeberg, Dan Halter, Philip Miller, Milo Pablo Momm, Kaiser Quartett, Peter Konwitschny, Anmari Honiball, Leila El-Kayem and Jane Taylor. Her pieces have received features in publications and organisations such as CNN Inside Africa, Die Zeit, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Business Day, and Forbes Woman Africa. Jessica’s work has received funding from all the major cultural ministries and foundations of Hamburg, the Federal Fund for Culture in Germany, German Foreign Office and Merck Finck Private Bank, Goldman Sachs and Rand Merchant Bank. She has partnered and received sponsorship from Lufthansa, Heinemann, Ammer Partners, Metropolgrund, Quantum, Uber, Goethe Institute and the University of Hamburg.
Jessica grew up in Johannesburg where, as a young girl, she was exposed to the harsh brutalities of racism and the oppressiveness inflicted by a minority in power. The anti-apartheid activities of her parents allowed her to observe first-hand the enforced silence – and later the abject anger – of the black majority. These memories and experiences have had a profound impact on the way that she sees and interprets the world around her. And it is these interactions with the broader society that has led her to explore the effects and impact of gender, identity, tradition and power on people. Nupen’s work seeks to rebel against the physical, emotional and structural oppression that still exists in South Africa today, and she cites Johannesburg as a hugely inspirational space for her work.
Reflecting these complex realities with satirical undertones and wide-ranging socio-political challenges faced by younger generations from a blatantly honest perspective, Jessica has attained international acclaim and the reputation ‘dance disruptor’. Her integration of diverse media and collaboration with a range of respected artists sees in her work the expression of an eclectic choreographic vocabulary as she investigates a certain theatrical reality.
Jessica completed her formal training at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London and her interdisciplinary dance theatre and performance works have been presented at Kampnagel Centre for the International Contemporary Arts In Hamburg (coproducer), Deutsches Theater Munich, Theater Dortmund, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, William Kentridge’s Centre for the Less Good Idea in Johannesburg, the eigenarten and Hauptsache Frei Festivals in Hamburg, Lichthof Theater, resonanzraum, Maifestspiele Wiesbaden, Osnabrück, Mainz as part of an African Female Arts collective, at the International Oriente Occidente Dance Festival in Rovereto, Theater Lübeck, Zimbabwe, International Dance Festival in Kalamata and A Summer’s Tale Festival. She opened the 2016 South African Dance Umbrella Festival with REBELLION & JOHANNESBURG and DON’T TRUST THE BORDER opened at Kampnagel Hamburg and William Kentridge’s space The Centre for the Less Good Idea in Johannesburg in 2018.
Jessica has been awarded artistic residencies in Munich, Hamburg, and Johannesburg invited by her mentor William Kentridge. She has choreographed for international operas, musicals and dance works across Europe and South Africa. She was nominated for the Desmond Tutu Fellowship for young African leaders and provided the key-note address at the Women in Business conference in Frankfurt appointed by the late former Ambassador Makhenkesi Stofile. Jessica lectured at the NOUS platform for Female African Artists in Mainz and has been a panel speaker at international dance festivals in Europe, African and political podium discussions, diplomatic conferences in Germany. She accompanied German President Steinmeier on his state visit to Southern Africa in November 2018 as an Arts Ambassador for Germany and South Africa and met with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and further dignitaries of the South African socio-political landscape.
Jessica is Founder and Director of the Movement Metropolitan e.V. which promotes platforms for international artistic collaboration in Germany and the Sukuma Trust which develops and empowers young dancers from previously disadvantaged backgrounds in South Africa.
Her latest films: REBELLION & JOHANNESBURG and DON’T TRUST THE BORDER – based on the original dance pieces produced in collaboration with Berlin-based creative agency: The Adventures Of, examines and contrasts post-apartheid South Africa with post-GDR Germany and won Best Short Film at the San Francisco Dance Film Festival in October 2016 and screened at the POOL International dance Film Festival in Berlin. These films have been the topic of screenings and festivals in Maboneng at the Bioscope Cinema and at CLAM CLUB/Spotlight on Women-Berlin.