The Camo Coat Collection and AFRIFUTURI 02022020 monograph officially launched on 02.02.2020, the mystical numerological portal connected to my ongoing creative and spiritual relationship with the number “8”. The book and collection represent 16 years of engagement, studio practice, performance, and teaching around themes of Afro-Futurism, Afrofuturity, African art, design, and survival in the urban landscape. The monograph includes custom holographic elements and features eight performance-costumes from past exhibitions, and eight writings–academic papers, performance scripts, poetic essays, and even a recipe for fried flying ants–from my years exploring the Afrofuture. The Camo Coat Collection addresses questions of protection in spiritual and logistical realms, inspired by the Yoruba orisa Osanyin, god of healing, plant divination, and forest wisdom and by the writings of Octavia Butler, in particular, Parable of the Sower about which I recently taught the SAIC course “Take Root Among The Stars: The Legacy of Octavia Butler, Surviving the 21st Century & Beyond” with a panel of eco-feminist practitioners (Chelsea Frazier, A. Martine Whitehead, Hương Ngo, and Sami Schalk) and an exhibition of student survival “go” packs based on the book, featured in a Chicago Tribune article “Octavia Butler Exhibit Pushes SAIC Students to Showcase Their “Visionary Muscles” by Darcel Rockett.
THE SHOW 02.02.2020
This dynamic runway show featured eight stunning models who are artists/performers/scholars in their own right wearing original capsule Camo Coat Collection garments by Denenge Design with select accessories by featured artisans. Models: DJ/performer Empress Darling Shear, NY poet Pamela Sneed, artist/photographer Shelby Stone, Tonika Johnson of Folded Map Project and R.A.G.E. Englewood, architect/artist Jackie McFarland, Cancerian goddess educational activist Ifeoma Nkemdi, and Ask An Amazon’s Chelsea Frazier. The amazing Sal Yvat was stylist with makeup by the enchanting Grant Karpin and music mix from Denenge favorites by DJ Sadie Woods including excerpts from Denenge’s Corpus Meum installation (Arts Club of Chicago) and Rapunzel Revisited soundscapes (MCA Chicago). Many thanks to Jonathan Woods for event filming and ensemble photography, Rhonda Wheatley for editorial and event support, Zoe Butler for studio design assistance, and to Eileen Rhodes and the Blanc Gallery team for space and event support. Thank you to Paige, Chris, Donavhn, Rohan, Lavon, Laura, Lucianne, Camille, Caroline, and Senongo.
Event featured the AFRIFUTURI 02022020 monograph, launch with custom holograms in collaboration with C Alex Clark, containing eight essays, interviews, and performance texts on my history in the world of Afro-Futurism, book signing, and post-show conversation with feminist eco-critic Chelsea Frazier.
I would like to offer deepest thanks to the following individuals who supported the launch through donations on the GoFundMe platform: Morris Fox, Stacy Goldate, Caroline Bellios, Gwenn-Ael Lynn, Huong Ngo, Betelhem Makonnen, and four other donors who wish to remain anonymous and are deeply appreciated for their support (and for those who donated in numeric combinations that add up to “8”!).
A limited number of AFRIFUTURI 02022020 monograph copies each with original custom hologram details are still available. Contact Denenge via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit link in bio at Instagram @AFRIFUTURI02022020 @DenengeTheFirst.
Libraries, collectors, and collections interested in one of the remaining limited edition boxed copies (out of eight total), please contact Denenge directly for further details.
The Osanyin Commemorative Portrait Series was the step leading to The Camo Coat Collection, a conceptual and applied Afro-Futurism project begun in 2014 as NEH Fellow for the Institute on Black Aesthetics and Sacred Systems. The collection is focused on protection—logistical and spiritual—in the urban landscape, inspired by Osanyin, the Yoruba orisa of healing, leaves, and the wisdom of nature, and referencing dazzle camouflage, its striped pattern bearing similarities to Tiv a’nger traditional loom-woven textile from Nigeria and referencing the power of Black Arts Movement poetics; connections to “reading” Scottish tartans; healing and thriving through ritual performance; and Afro-Futurist design practice in action.
These projects were presented in my paper “Visible/Invisible: Healing and Protection in the Urban Landscape” at the 2020 CAA (College Art Association) Conference on Friday, February 14, and at the American Everyday Conference on Saturday, February 15 hosted by Columbia College Chicago and Parsons School of Design. It will be presented in November 2020 for the Costume Colloquium VII in Firenze, Italy (virtual) and in 2021 for the Arts Council of the African Studies Association annual conference.
From February 11-March 1, 2020, the collection and select Osanyin portraits was on view in the Fashion Windows at 618 S. Michigan Avenue, Columbia College Chicago.
LEARN EVEN MORE!
Recent exhibitions have featured the first in this series of commemorative portraits of NEH Institute Fellows taken on location at Emory University in Atlanta during at the 2014 NEH Summer Institute for Black Aesthetics and Sacred Systems when I first began to translate depictions of Osanyin into contemporary portraits that involved a collaborative process with each subject. Further iterations in Chicago and beyond are under consideration.
While at the NEH Institute, I created a series of leaf drawings presented at the end of institute along with the portraits, all free-form from imagination rather than based on any actual plant. These I turned into Osanyin-inspired original hand-drawn leaf textiles and custom wall coverings. The leaf wall covering was hand-cut and installed as part of Wan Chuku and the Mystical Yam Farm installation for WÁKÀTÍ: Time Shapes African Art curated by Moyo Okediji, PhD at OSUMA in 2015-16 and has been shown in subsequent exhibitions. The original OSUMA exhibition included 10-foot tall yam mound “trees” whose black-and-white stripe textile references dazzle camouflage as protection and its visual connections to Tiv traditional loom-woven textile a’nger (pronounced “ahn-gair”), a gift given at achievement or family blessing, a cloth that represents and clothes one in Tiv-ness.
Read more about the project here. Watch the collection and book launch video now!
The notorious Camo Coat travels the world! First set of coats currently being designed on custom basis. Contact Denenge for more information. The Original Camo Coat is part of the Osanyin Commemorative Portrait Series and The Camo Coat Collection.
Interior garment photos by Tonika Johnson.
Lurie Garden, Millennium Park, photos by Hilary Higgins for Chicago Tribune.