Happy New Year of the Fire Monkey!

From my Luscious Garden to yours:

Wishing joy, love, peace, health, abundance in all forms, cash money aplenty, & dreams come true to all in 2016 and beyond!


"Sculpting Space for Afro-Futurism as Methodology of Liberation: An Interview with D. Denenge Akpem" with Florence Okoye of Afrofutures UK for her series on Afro-Futurism for How We Get To Next.


Featured in article "Afrofuturism 2.0 and the Black Speculative Art Movement: Notes on a Manifesto" by Reynaldo Anderson for Afrofutures UK series at How We Get To Next.  Image: The Mega-Scope, from the novel “The Princess Steel” by W.E.B Du Bois. Image credit: Stacey Robinson


Thrilled to have my work included in Florence Okoye's article on Afro-Futurism and music for her series at How We Get To Next with featured artwork by Krista Franklin.


So excited to announce that the first complete screening of The Golden Chain by Adebukola Bodunrin and Ezra Claytan Daniels will screen at Flaherty NYC on January 19, 2016!  I provided the voice for Yetunde, the Yoruba scientist who is one of two key characters in the film, representing my first time voicing an animated character!  A dream come true!  Buki and Ezra are two of my favorite artists on the planet so please, any NY-based peeps, check this out!



Magnetic Electro Masquerade: An Evening of Afro Electronica Music and Afro-Futurist Cosplay

Saturday, October 31 at 10:00 p.m.

Elastic Arts

3429 W. Diversey, #208

David Boykin and Ytasha L. Womack host an evening of Afro-Futurist music and cosplay - featuring performances by Moor Mother Goddess, Julia Price, JayVe Montgomery.  D. Denenge Akpem presents "La Fantaisie Ibeji", a costume-and-installation video compilation to accompany djs and dance.





"Women of AFRICOBRA" Panel featuring Jae Jarrell and Carolyn Lawrence in conversation with curator Arlene Turner-Crawford

Friday, October 30, 2015

LeRoy Neiman Center, 37 S. Wabash


D. Denenge Akpem

"Wan Chuku and the Mystical Yam Farm"

Featured artist for WÁKATÍ: Time Shapes African Art

Curated by Moyo Okediji, PhD.

Oklahoma State University Museum of Art

October 2015 – February 2016

Installation and Performance Description

In Tiv, my paternal language, "wan” means child and "chuku" means little.  Something or someone really small, a tiny child or baby is "chuku chuku."  Tiv are also the yam farmers of Nigeria, located in the fertile farmlands of Benue State.  “Wan Chuku and the Mystical Yam Farm” references being in a mystical wonderland, connecting to Amos Tutuola's book My Life in the Bush of Ghosts about a boy in colonial Nigeria who becomes lost in the mythical bush of ghosts and all of his wild adventures there.  It also connects to the child in Dr. Seuss' The Lorax who is entrusted with the last truffala seed, full of all possibility of building a new, beautiful, and healthy future for the earth.  

The black and white stripes for the abstract, ornamental tree forms rising from each yam mound are based on Tiv anger cloth (prounounced “ahn-gair”)--a mark of prestige that reflects Tiv loom-weaving traditions.  They also reference "dazzle camouflage" used for wartime ships to confuse the enemy via optical illusion.  I am not encouraging war, just the aesthetic use of this concept to create a slightly disorienting atmosphere that, along with the shifts in architectural scale.

My families have traditionally been farmers--specifically tree farmers--on both sides of the Atlantic, in the central California Dutch immigrant community and in Shangev Tiev, our home district in Tivland. Grandpa had orchards of peaches, plums, nectarines, and even walnuts and almonds as well as dairy cows, the primary economy.  I remember being very small and picking strawberries with Grandma, so small we could lay between the rows of strawberry plants and see the sun dappling in between the leaves, the way the earth looked up close.  Eating warm, freshly washed California strawberries—there are no words to describe what a happy experience that was.  Dad has orchards of oranges, lemons, mangos, cashew, and all kinds of vegetables including groundnuts (peanuts), pineapple, beneseed (sesame seed), and of course, yams**, and my parents always enjoyed collecting new plant cuttings and trying them out at the compound. 

I sculpt trees because I love their form and because they are such an important part of my heritage and reflect the concepts of growth and persistence; growing trees takes time, love, patience, and skill.

Benue State, Nigeria carries the same name as the Benue River that flows into the Niger River, emptying out into the oil-rich delta region to the south.  Benue contains very fertile farmland and in the ‘70s during the heady post-independence years, it was referred to as "the breadbasket of the nation."  Tiv people are, among many other skills and talents, known as yam farmers.**  A yam seed or cutting is the truffala seed; in it lies all possibility.  If you have not eaten pounded yam, you have not eaten (yet).  Thus, the mystical world springs from the yam mounds which have been ritually oriented north-east-south-west in honor of the directions and centered with a clay pot of sculpted clay fruits, familial bounty, over which dangles precious crystal pouring down through a canopy of leaves.*** 

For the performance, I painted the walls using a mixture of paint and soil with abstract designs—somewhat reminiscent of dwellings, architectural spaces--referencing the style and ritual manner of the Akire mothers.  Visiting curator, art historian, and artist Moyo Okediji, PhD. has done extensive study and training with the Akire painters in southern Nigeria (Yoruba) and offered this video so that I might play it over top of my live painting.  The projection, slowed and ethereal, reflects their presence painting along with me.

A soft soundscape of crickets, water, Saturn’s rings, and cicadas plays softly and intermittently in the background.

*My paternal language from Benue State in southeastern Nigeria

**African yams used for poundo (fufu), not sweet potatoes

***Leaves printed from my sketches of abstract leaves


Many thanks to the amazing staff at OSUMA for assistance in bringing this installation and performance to life and to Moyo Okediji for featuring my work in this exhibition.  It was an honor to include projected film footage of the Akire mothers painting as I did the live painting in the installation on opening night.



Visit the museum's site.




"Luscious Garden"

Interactive "huggable" sculpture installation

Warm Kitty, Soft Kitty

September 6 - December 13, 2015

Hyde Park Art Center

Kanter McCormick Gallery

5100 S. Cornell, Chicago, IL

Opening reception Sunday, September 13, 3:00-5:00 p.m.

"Luscious Garden" is a mix of West African textiles (including a dangling sculpture made from spooky hand-and-fingers Nigerian wax print cloth found in a Gboko market), awesome stretch knits and stripes from New Rainbow Fabrics on Roosevelt (best fabric store in the city!), bits of fur, and other strange, enticing elements from my collection.  In keeping with ongoing themes of desire-repulsion and Afro-Futurism, this installation is an overgrown garden of gargantuan flowers on acid, playing with scale and tucked into a gallery nook to reveal intricacies only upon closer inspection.  

Inspiration includes thneeds from Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, Senga Nengudi's stocking and sand performative sculptures from the '60s and '70s, Yinka Shonibare's alien family sculptures, and even Mike Kelley's sinister stuffed animal "compositions." 


Description, excerpt from curator's exhibition statement:

Touch can be awkward, painful, therapeutic, malicious, nurturing, terrifying, sacred, erotic, anxiety inducing, lascivious, invigorating or exciting. Without touch we would not be able to survive.  Though a selection of photography, performance, video, and sculpture by curator Camille Morgan, the exhibition presents variations on the the act of feeling. The artists featured in the show address the emotional and sensational experience of touch and how it can be documented outside of individual memory to influence the creation of collective perceptions.

Connections between touch and sight create visual assumptions that also influence how societies communicate with one another. To challenge these visual assumptions and existing modes of communication, “Warm Kitty, Soft Kitty” reevaluates the role of individual memory and its potential to create collective empathy through imagination. “This exhibition aims to be a reintroduction for visitors to feel – both tactilely and emotionally,” adds Morgan."

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