D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem is transnational Califor-Nigerian “space sculptor” whose art and writing bridge modalities of ritual, design, and ecology. Her practice reflects an ongoing engagement with liminality in site, body, and the visible/invisible, expressed through a range of media including performance drawings, photography, site-specific and interactive sculpture, activated garments, and sonic interventions. Her Pastoral Brutalism series charts the poetics of a sensual scholarly engagement with historic architectures and nature-based environments as a return to embracing the haptic, the role of shapeshifter, methodologies of protection, fantasy excavation, and forms of archive and memoir. Utilizing indigenous materials and emerging technologies, she challenges representations of marginalized bodies to catalyze healing and decolonize the art historical canon.

Denenge is Associate Professor, Adjunct, School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), offering graduate and undergraduate courses, where she received a 2018 Marion Kryczka Excellence in Teaching Award and an inaugural Diversity Advisory Group 2016 Teaching Awards for Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion, and 2020-21 Visiting Artist-Associate Professor at Kentucky College of Art and Design (KyCAD). She is a 2020 LaBecque Laureate; 2016-17 Rebuild Foundation/University of Chicago Place Lab Fellow for which she wrote in the culminating publication about teaching Afrofuturism as pathway to liberation; 2014 NEH Institute Fellow; and founding member of Chicago Fashion Lyceum. She has received awards from Red Bull Arts, Illinois Arts Council, 3Arts, and Chicago Artists Coalition, among others. She was awarded the Smith College Gardner Prize in American Studies for her paper on the exhibition of African art in Western museum contexts, highlighting the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution exhibition of the adinkra cloth of Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh I. She holds an MFA from SAIC and BA from Smith College.

As founder of Denenge Design and In The Luscious Garden, focused on holistic, conceptual approaches to human-centered design, Duyst-Akpem creates fantastical interactive environments and performances to interrogate, titillate, decolonize, and empower, inspired by Sun Ra and asking: “Who controls the future?” “Afro-Futurism: Pathways to Black Liberation”—now titled “Afrofuturity”–was an early multi-disciplinary offering in the field, and “Take Root Among The Stars: The Legacy of Octavia Butler, Surviving the 21st Century & Beyond” included urban foraging, a dynamic panel of Butler experts, and exhibition of survival “go” packs based on Butler’s prophetic Parable of the Sower.

Highlights include: Smithsonian Institution Claiming Space Symposium, 2022; Camo Coat feature in the catalog and conference presentation for Africa Fashion at the V&A Museum, London, 2022; AFRIFUTURI 02022020 monograph and The Camo Coat Collection runway and launch on February 2, 2020 at Blanc Gallery in historic Bronzeville, Chicago; Corpus Meum at the Arts Club of Chicago; High Priestess of the Intergalactic Federation, Special Envoy to Mars for Black Quantum Futurism: Temporal Deprogramming, ICA London, 2019 (originally commissioned for NASA/Blumberg Becoming Interplanetary/Decolonizing Mars, U.S. Library of Congress, 2018) also presented as Holographic High Priestess, Glitch 22 at Chicago Design Museum and Blanc Gallery for Terrain Biennial; Black Light Primal Nun ‘A’ Presents The Ramm Riff for Rammellzee: Racing for Thunder “No Guts, No Galaxy”, Red Bull Arts NY, 2018; La Fantaisie Ibeji experimental performance film; audience-interactive activation of Houston Conwill Rivers cosmogram with Nyugen E. Smith, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 2018; and voice of Yetunde for animation The Golden Chain by Adebukola Bodunrin and Ezra Claytan Daniels (originally for Black Radical Imagination film series curated by Erin Christovale and Amir George), now part of the Whitney Museum permanent collection.

Denenge has written on Afro-Futurism and the Osanyin Commemorative Portrait Series including: “Sister Moon: A Lunar Poetic in X Stanzas” for Kunsthaus Zürich Fly Me To The Moon exhibition curated by Cathérine Hug; “Constructing Future Forms: Body, Garment, and Adornment in Afro-Futurism” for Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin and Fluctuating Images Connecting Afro Futures. Fashion x Hair x Design exhibition magalog curated by Claudia Banz, Cornelia Lund and Beatrace Angut Oola; “N’Vesting in the People: The Art of Jae Jarrell” essay about AFRICOBRA co-founder Jae Jarrell for catalogue produced by Kavi Gupta Gallery for the 58th Venice Biennale. Her writing will be published in an upcoming special edition of the Journal of Design History (Oxford University Press) edited by Dr. Sally-Anne Huxtable, Chair of the Design History Society, and in Vegetal Entwinements (MIT Press) edited by Giovanni Aloi and Michael Marder.

Selected features include: The Seen, Sixty, Antennae: The Journal of Art and Nature, ARTNews, Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, How We Get to Next with Afrofutures UK, Chicago Magazine, Fleeting Monuments for the Black Arts Movement (U-Minn Press, 2021), Theaster Gates: How To Build a House Museum for AGO, Toronto, and Fired Up! Ready to Go!: Finding Beauty, Demanding Equity: An African American Life in Art, The Collections of Peggy Cooper Cafritz, the latter titles listed as top two on Culture Type’s “18 Best Black Art Books of 2018”.

Recent virtual exhibitions during the 2020 pandemic included Holographic High Priestess for Burning Man 2020, Brand New Mesh by Comm-Post (Veracruz, Mexico) and PS1/Center for Afrofuturist Studies (Iowa City, IA). Her monograph AFRIFUTURI 02022020 was featured as part of Kavi Gupta Editions Black Voices Initiative and is in the collection of the National Art Library, London; Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection + Archives; and ARTEXTE, Montréal, among others. 

CONTACT: ddenenge [at] gmail [dot] com
INSTAGRAM: @ AFRIFUTURI02022020 @ TheCamoCoat @ DenengeDesign