With/Out ¿Borders? II Conference: Post-Oppression Imaginaries and Decolonized Futures


With/Out ¿Borders? II Conference: Post-Oppression Imaginaries and Decolonized Futures

October 20-23, 2016 

Conference hosted by Dr. Lisa Brock, ARCUS Center for Social Justice, Kalamazoo College, MI, featuring Adrienne Maree Brown of Octavia's Brood, Valerie Thomas, Stephanie Shonekan, and many more.

D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem

Afro-Futurism Breakout Session:  "Alter-Destiny 888: Breaking the Legacy, Conjuring Futures" 

Friday, October 21

We carry legacies in our DNA and stones in our wombs. Join D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem in a series of steps inspired by Sun Ra's sonic healing; National Black Theatre of Harlem founder Barbara Ann Teer's self-love and de-crudding exercises; concepts of Black futures and "Superhero Self"; and Octavia Butler's journal manifestation "So be it! See to it!", culminating in a participatory ritual performance of release.

WITH/OUT-¿BORDERS? is here! Join us tomorrow live at 9:30am! Naomi Klein's keynote address and all four plenaries will be live streamed at:

Use #KzooWOB on Twitter to follow and share all conference news and updates.  [And use @DenengeTheFirst handle for any tweets connected to my conference contributions or anything you'd like me to check out.]

Our sustainable conference guide is now available on the Guidebook app.

Download the conference guide today at to preview of all the conference speakers and events.





what the body knows

Barak adé Soleil 

October 28 & 29, 2016

Stony Island Arts Bank

Chicago, IL

Chicago Dance Foundation and 3Arts Awardee and Dorchester choreographer-in-residence dancer Barak adé Soleil presents the premiere of what the body knows.  I designed and produced the costumes, joining an illustrious group of contributor/collaborators including DJ Sadie Woods who created the sound.





July 2016 through April 2017, I will participate as a salon session member of Place Lab, the ethical redevelopment think tank at Stony Island Arts Bank in a partnership between the University of Chicago's Arts + Public Life and the Harris School of Public Policy, investigating the 9 Principles of Ethical Redevelopment rooted in the work of artist, professor, planner, developer, and Place Lab Director, Theaster Gates, Jr.  

This group--comprised of local and national leaders and practitioners in design, sustainability, environmental action, social justice, architecture, and more--will meet through 2017 to share projects and develop cross-national and international networks and projects based on nine principles of ethical redevelopment.  

Check this link for more information and the Place Lab public forum.





3Arts and 6018North present VIP: Very Important Performances
2nd Floor | 300 level


Rashayla Marie Brown discusses contracts and artistic value with lawyer Patrice Perkins and artist D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem, hosted by Tricia van Eck of 6018North in connection with Rashayla Marie Brown's installation and Thursday, September 22 Vernissage EXPO opening night performance featuring Fo Wilson and other special guest performers.



Had a wonderful weekend as a participant in the B.A.R. Black Artists Retreat hosted by Theaster Gates and Eliza Myrie at Rebuild Foundation and The Dorchester Project.  It was fantastic to reconnect with friends and colleagues and to meet new artists, to build relationships and expand the network.  It's been beautiful to watch this retreat--a work of art originally hosted by Carrie Mae Weems and Sarah Workneh with Myrie and Gates--shapeshift over the years.



I am happy to announce that, through student-nomination, I am the recipient of an inaugural SAIC Diversity Advisory Group 2016 Teaching Award for Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion.  This award is even more wonderful because it reflects the support and enthusiasm so many students have shown for my teaching and courses and in their unwavering commitment to social justice, to "balking at their own balking", and to the infinite possibilities of shapeshifting.


What time is it?

Nation time!


JUNE 24, 2016


The Artists' Lifestyle

Presentation and Discussion with co-panelists Damon Locks and Matt Austin

Friday, June 24, 2016

3:45-5:30 p.m.

Comfort Station, Logan Square


April 14-16, 2016

"Ma(s)king Her"

Honey Pot Performance

Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Chicago

(Featured photo above) Abra Johnson as Wonder in headdress designed by D. Denenge Akpem, underlay textile featuring painting by Euzhan Sims, and Oracle sculptures.  Photo by Lani Montreal from Honey Pot Performance facebook.

Ma(s)king Her (2015/2016) is a dance theater work addressing the absence of women of color in speculative fiction as empowered future beings and journeywomen. Aligned with AfroSurrealism and black feminist thought, this modern folktale emphasizing the urgency of creating alternative worlds and economies of value and need, particularly for women of color in a world that often subjugates their collective presence to silence and/or invisibility.


Selection Panelist for 2016 ACRE Residency Program Artists

It was a pleasure to join other esteemed panelists from Chicago and beyond to select the 2016 ACRE residents.  ACRE is an incredible incubator for an international group of artists and I am proud to have been part of the selection team.


2016 Annual Midwest Art History Society Conference

DePaul University

Presentation of paper on the "Women of AFRICOBRA" with highlights on the work of Jae Jarrell.

On panel with Rebecca Zorach and Marissa Baker.


D. Denenge Akpem

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism

“Women of AFRICOBRA: Highlights and Reflections on Art, Motherhood, and Community”

This presentation revisits highlights from the “Women of AFRICOBRA” panel in October 2015 offered in conjunction with the course “Power to the People: Revolution and the Black Arts Movement” for the 50thAnniversary of the Black Arts Movement.  Akpem will look at the artistic practices of women in this legendary collective through the lens of  “process and product”, considering artistic concerns, motherhood, and visions of family in everyday life and as reflected within their work.  She will consider the roles that feminism, entrepreneurship, the collective process, and Chicago as site played on the development of their work as revolutionary artists, trailblazers, and renegades.


2016 SAIC Faculty Enrichment Grant

Rock and roll!  I was awarded a 2016 Faculty Enrichment Grant to support work toward my first book and toward developing the Osanyin Project!


"Afro-Futurism: Pathways to Black Liberation"

Black History Month Guest Speaker

Wilbur Wright College

City College of Chicago

Spring 2016

Thank you to Myrna Favors, a former "Black Arts Movement" student and graduate of Columbia College, for the invitation and welcome; library faculty for organizing this event; faculty who brought classes; students who envigorated the conversation; President David Potash, PhD; and Vice President Nicole Reaves, Ed.D for the warm welcome and invitation to return.  

The campus--with its historic Bertrand Goldberg spaceship-esque architecture and newly-completed modern pyramid library--was the perfect location for this talk, very inspirational.  I felt as if I landed in another land within Chicago, to a welcome space of Afro-Futurist possibility.


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Los Angeles

Clockshop presents Radio Imagination

Thrilled to attend the Launch party for a year-long celebration and commemoration of Octavia Butler with members of the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network and dear former-Chicago friend, classmate and artistic collaborator Stacy Goldate!  Happy reunions with Erin Cristovale of Black Radical Imagination and Savannah "Savvy" Wood of Clockshop LA!


Radio Imagination artists and writers will conduct first-hand research in Butler’s archive at the Huntington Library and create new work based on their research. New poetry and creative nonfiction by Tisa BryantLynell GeorgeRobin Coste Lewis, and Fred Moten will premiere at a public reading event. New contemporary artworks byLaylah AliCourtesy the Artists (Malik Gaines and Alexandro Segade), Lauren HalseyMendi + Keith ObadikeConnie Samaras, and Cauleen Smith will be presented at an exhibition at Armory Center for the Arts (October 1, 2016–January 7, 2017).

Looking forward to this film screening which will showcase Adebukola Bodunrin and Ezra Claytan Daniels' The Golden Chain, featuring yours truly as the voice of Yoruba scientist Yetunde!



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.



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