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Riding Interstellar Waves: A Performance Essay on Afro-Futurism and Time Travel from D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem

This essay exists as a record, a performance document and collaged concept map linking threads in an interstellar web charting the content of my lectures and presentations culled from over 25 years of study, teaching, sculpting, and performing, each coded element an entry point like portals to the vast arkestry of Afrofuturist future visioning. Highlights include references to performance ritual as the High Priestess of the Intergalactic Federation, Special Envoy to Mars, for the September 27, 2018 Decolonizing Mars/Becoming Interplanetary symposium convened by NASA/Blumberg Chair of Astrobiology Lucianne Walkowicz at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, and content from performance-lecture-poetics for “Afro-Futurism and Time Travel” at the University of Chicago’s Gray Center for Art and Inquiry and from The Ramm Riff featuring Black Light Primal Nun ‘A’ at Red Bull Arts NY for No Guts, No Galaxy slide show series as part of programming for the exhibition Rammellzee: Racing for Thunder.


Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 8.56.40 PMThis is an experimental collage, ideas and poetics intertwined, a performance-lecture-poetic in multiple stanzas, a Time Travel Riff from the outposts of Afro-Futurist vision quests, threads of thought referenced and practices enacted since the dawn of time…This is a time travelers trip…

[Trajan Wright’s “The Daydreamer is Ready for Liftoff (Not Belonging)…The Journey…The Arrival”, composed for The Mars Project, “Afro-Futurism: Pathways to Black Liberation” course final, Fall 2013]

In the early 1900s, Rev. A. W. Nix was one of the first pastors recorded with a popular series of sermons that imaginatively implored and scared people into doing right.  Songs such as The White Flyer to Heaven” referenced traveling a mystical spaceship with Jesus.

“Higher and higher! And higher! We’ll pass on to the Second Heaven, the starry big Heaven, and view the flying stars and dashing meteors and then pass on by Mars and Mercury, and Jupiter and Venus and Saturn and Uranus, and Neptune with her four glittering moons.”

All aboard with Jesus!

Mnemonics, mnemonic devices take us “back back / forth and forth” (shout out to Ms. Shirleen)

In a cosmic twist, I ventured forward to Washington DC and found myself thrust back in time at the Library of Congress for Decolonizing Mars/Becoming Interplanetary: What Living on Earth Can Teach Us About Living on Mars at the invitation of NASA/Blumberg Chair of Astrobiology Lucianne Walkowicz, appearing as the High Priestess of the Intergalactic Federation, Special Envoy to Mars, one of my liminal guides, this one based in part on a painting of Queen Califia, Black Amazon Warrior Queen of what is now California, named for the mythological queen and her land of Black women warriors and griffins, a man-less country.

Caption: D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem, High Priestess of the Intergalactic Federation, Special Envoy to Mars, performance for Decolonizing Mars/Becoming Interplanetary Symposium, Library of Congress, Washington DC, 2018. Photo credit: M. Cem Mengüç

Image: D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem, High Priestess of the Intergalactic Federation, Special Envoy to Mars, performance for Decolonizing Mars/Becoming Interplanetary Symposium, Library of Congress, Washington DC, 2018. Photo credit: M. Cem Mengüç.

Caption: Mural of Califia from Room of the Dons, Sacramento, California

Image: Mural of Queen Califia and her Amazons by Maynard Dixon/Frank Von Sloun, Room of the Dons in Mark Hopkins Hotel, San Francisco, California. Courtesy of the author.

Black women

Warriors

Dahomey Amazons

Image: Archival photo of Dahomey Amazons.

Image: Archival photo of Dahomey Amazons.

Dora Milaje

Image: Dora Milaje, Black Panther, 2018.

Image: Dora Milaje, Black Panther, 2018.

Histories revealed

Histories remixed

Narratives reframed

Sonic signatures imprinted into ancient marble

The histories of this site, the treaties signed and broken

 

Image: Exterior of Library of Congress building. Courtesy the author.

Image: Exterior of Library of Congress building. Courtesy of the author.

Image: Interior of Library of Congress building. Courtesy the author.

Image: Interior of Library of Congress building. Courtesy of the author.

Jefferson’s papers upstairs

Thinking of Sally Hemmings

Settler colonialism

Violent white supremacy and misogyny, its dis-ease wrapped around and through and inside…

For Decolonizing Mars/Becoming Interplanetary, I created interactive vocal portals including the Name-Sound Exercise for audience introductions, referencing Octavia Butler’s Speech Sounds, to performatively disrupt people’s identifications, pushing them into a space of no-thing-ness, outside of the identities with which they have framed themselves, dislocating, discomforting, disassembling…And reassembling in new forms through use of singular name-sounds created in introduction to each other.

Name-sounds shift identities, posit discomfort as portal, contrasting comfort as in relative stasis, dynamic separation from states of comfort. What does this have to teach us? Also: an opportunity, something to welcome, testing out other possibilities, as in: who am I without my name? Who am I in sound form? What are my rhythms?

…Code…

…Memory…

…Disruptor…

…Lee “Scratch” Perry aka “I am the Upsetter.”…

Amiri Baraka, co-founder of the Black Arts Movement, in “Bopera Theory” writes:

“We must step outside the parameters of this society’s vision of just about everything. Often I seek to use, as one alternative, practices found in the oldest root of performance: ritual, but not in a frozen or atavistic way. We take the wholeness, the freshness, the penetrating emotionalism and spiritual revelation and renewal, the direct connection with what the ancients meant.”[1]

In the Library of Congress’ Kluge Hall, Martian flags unfurl digitally (featuring Califia’s griffins) and we sing the Mars Anthem chorus created by Kelsie Johnson for The Mars Project in my 2013 course “Afro-Futurism: Pathways to Black Liberation. Protesters outside chant against the fascist nomination being enacted that week. I offer invocations at the same moment as Dr. Ford’s testimony.

Image: Martian flag concept. Courtesy the author.

Image: Martian flag concept. Courtesy the author.

And today, as I head to the first full health screening I’ve had in almost a decade—the hierarchy and tragedy of health-insurance-less teaching force—I see Ericka Stalling’s comprehensive, illuminating, and necessary article on Black women and the dire, emergency state of our health care, how we are never believed, we “weather” i.e. age faster than any other group. Apparently, Black women get breast cancer at slower rates than other populations but die at 40% higher rates than any other demographic, all of this due primarily to racism, neglect, and disbelief by the medical establishment that we experience pain. Our thresholds are apparently much higher, vestiges of slavery propaganda.

#Weathering

Image: Photo of weathered tree.

Image: Photo of weathered tree.

Extreme aging due to the relentless battering by racist and misogynist forces

Time speeded up

“If I could turn back time/If I could find a way”

Our Bodies, Ourselves

Time shaping form

And now Evil has been confirmed yet again to the highest court in this land. White heteronormative patriarchal supremacy ensured for generations to come.  Attempted control of the divine feminine.

This is war.

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Images: Ralph Ziman, Murarabungu Chigwagawag (“Rainbow Machineguns”, Shona) and Mabara Bara (“Bullets”, Shona) from the Ghosts series.

Images: Ralph Ziman, Murarabungu Chigwagawag (“Rainbow Machineguns”, Shona) and Mabara Bara (“Bullets”, Shona) from the Ghosts series.

The How:

Gestures of relocation, establishing place, space:

We write ourselves into being.

Audre Lorde writes “Poetry Is Not a Luxury”:

“For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.”

She ushers us in to “The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.”

The seed, cultivating those truths within

The seed…We are Wild Seed.

Image: Book cover of Octavia Butler's Wild Seed.

Image: Book cover of Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed.

[Marcus Montgomery, “Wild Seed Sonic Book”, 2014.]

In Temple of My Familiar, Alice Walker writes “Blessed are those who know.”

On knowing, say: “I have been here before.”

Audre Lorde opening portals into possibilities.

Image: Audre Lorde.

Image: Audre Lorde.

Ways out of my darkness for 30 years

Out of the darkness of neglect

Honor feeling as intelligence, disrupting the primacy of “mind”, the construction of Mind employed as a force for domination that denies what you Know, that which denies Indigenous knowledge systems.

Disrupt the Mind Machine

“I feel, therefore I can be free.”

 

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Afro-Futurism is a shape-shifter’s art, in the dance of possibility, adopting new forms to address new needs, shifting through time-space, time and space as moldable materials for the Time Traveler.

In “Octavia Butler—Praise Song for a Prophetic Artist”, Andrea Hairston invokes Butler’s practice, stating, “We are Impossibility Specialists.”[2]

Ritually conjuring Black Futures

Octavia Butler’s future vision, manifest:

“So be it! See to it! So be it! See to it! So be it! See to it!” Ashé!Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 9.09.03 PM

Images: Portrait of Octavia E. Butler and a full view of Butler's inspirational message to herself on the back of a notebook. Photo courtesy Estate of Octavia E. Butler.

Images: Portrait of Octavia E. Butler, and a full view of Butler’s inspirational message to herself on the back of a notebook. Photos courtesy of the Estate of Octavia E. Butler.

This is rectification, a compassionate revisiting of what our ancestors faced, from the largest to seemingly minute gestures, all in service of freedom, life.

June Jordan reminds us that “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

 

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Image: D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem, The Ramm Riff feat. Black Light Primal Nun ‘A’, No Guts, No Galaxy, Rammellzee: Racing for Thunder, Red Bull Arts NY, 2018. Photo credit: Tonika Johnson.

Image: D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem, The Ramm Riff feat. Black Light Primal Nun ‘A’, No Guts, No Galaxy, Rammellzee: Racing for Thunder, Red Bull Arts NY, 2018. Photo credit: Tonika Johnson.

Shifting, dazzling, camouflaging across galaxies

Image: Dazzle camouflage collage. Courtesy of the author.

Image: Dazzle camouflage collage. Courtesy of the author.

New Black Poetics shifts space-time via relocation of frames of value.

Value

Value in Voice

Voice, the origin, speak into being, Badu’s “spell-ing”

Griots

Yoruba oríkì lifting the iwa, essential character, upward, into manifestation as the oba is installed

(Word to the brilliant and beloved Dr. Rowland Abiodun, “Understanding Yoruba Art and Aesthetics: The Concept of Ase)

One’s essential voice arises in response

ashé as je da pe answer create call

power to command, power to listen, power to respond

call and response [3]

As African art historian Babatunde Lawal writes, “Myth and ritual are never static.”[4]

Ritual is cross-time travel, pushing outside the boundaries and limitations of our socializations.

Past-present-future exist as one, subject to our navigation and manipulation.

 

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The use of ritual to enter time-space shifts: it is perception or reality?  How do we perceive time passing in relation to how it actually passes. If the passing of time is a scientific construction created to help us understand the world and ourselves within it, does passing of time as it has been described in a Western context even really exist? Everyone around us is calculated (pun intended) to represent the passing of time; our social and relational selves are completely intertwined with frames of time, the language I’m using case in point. Almost every word somehow relates back to constructions of time, can be understood within the framework of time: passing as in passing by, movement from one location to another; calculate as in tally, add, subtract or otherwise engage mathematically to move from one result to another i.e. passage of time implied; frames as in film, moments captured, a grid or outline that assists in boxing, categorizing or otherwise making relational connections between ideas or objects; case as in to case the joint, scope out a physical location, a box; point as in starting point, from point A to B, what’s your point, make a point i.e. identify oneself or concept in a location, a point, to map.

If as has been suggested by Rasheedah Phillips of Black Quantum Futurism, what we conceive of as “the present” is only mere seconds at best then we are forever living within a moment of present that instantly becomes both future and past simultaneously.[5]

Time-space shifts begin with shifts in our perspective, our location in space….

In speaking of the work of sculptor Constantin Brancusi, Rodney McMillian states in conjunction with his work for the 2007 Studio Museum exhibition Philosophy of Time Travel:

“With innovations to modern microscope technology in the middle of the nineteenth century, and the exploration of the atomic world that followed, consciousness was shifted because people came to understand that matter was not as solid as they once through.  To consider that everything is actually vibrating at intensities, and that there’s the whole other world that is completely invisible to us and is operating on scales with different rules and unique dynamics was crazy.” Earlier in the roundtable, Matthew Sloly references the aphorism by Heraclitus from 535-475 BC “you can never step in the same river twice.”  “In that statement there is an implicit idea of time in its relation to the flow of time, and ever changing time…highlighting the unstable nature of the river.”[6]

 

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“The Healing Drum” as Malidoma Patrice Somé has described

Equals a portal

Traveling the rhythm

Portal to other worlds and ways of being

Portal to healing for self, community, universe

We experience a shift, a wrinkle in time (word to Madeline L’Engle).

In Of Water and the Spirit, shaman Malidoma Patrice Somé recounts details from his initiation in Chapter 20, “Through the Light Hole”:

“It was my turn.  I heard the officiating elder order me to run…I could see the circle of light rushing closer and closer…About a meter away, I jumped high above the gateway and dived in…At first my body felt extremely cold, as if I had fallen into a freezer.  Then almost immediately, I felt myself descending rapidly…Slowly, like the dawn breaking, I began to see light.  At first it was like an aurora borealis, shot with areas of dark and ones of extreme luminescence—rays of such intensity they made me think of the cosmos in expansion or a cosmogony in progress…”[7]

In A History of Art in Africa, three stages in rites of passage are detailed: [8]

Separation

Transition

Incorporation

These rites are of space and time continuum where the so-called laws of nature as defined primarily in Western scientific understanding do not apply.

Malidoma Patrice Somé shares the rituals of Grandfather’s funeral (as a transition on the other end of life cycle), learning to see with Dagara wisdom in “Trying to See”, finally seeing the tree “In the Arms of the Green Lady”, and being buried alive in “Burials, Lessons, and Journeys”

Images: Malidoma Patrice Somé, and the cover of his book Of Water and the Spirit.

Images: Malidoma Patrice Somé, and the cover of his book Of Water and the Spirit.

Ritual gestures marking transition from life into death, defeating death, the Death card

Butler’s “Trickster Teacher Chaos Clay”

Image: Slide referencing Lauren Oya Olamina in Parable of the Sower from Earthseed: Books of the Living; design by author.

Image: Slide referencing Lauren Oya Olamina in Parable of the Sower from Earthseed: Books of the Living. Design by the author.

Time-space / site / location

What precipitates, even catalyzes, a shift in time?

Sacred ritual spaces intersect the visible/invisible, sacred/secular

Image: Visible/Invisible slide. Design by the author.

Image: Visible/Invisible slide. Design by the author.

Egungun masquerade: entering the liminal

Image: Egungun ancestral masquerade, Nigeria.

Image: Egungun ancestral masquerade, Nigeria.

Visual-verbal nexus[9]

Homage to hidden histories, uncovering the foundations of culture

Oba Ariwajoye I’s veil protects you and the awesome elemental timeless power contained within.

He exists outside of time-space; he is of the world of ancestors, a lineage representation in the flesh, separated within liminal space by the veil.[10]

Image: Oba Ariwajoye I, Ruler of Ila-Orangun, Yoruba, Nigeria, 1977. Photo courtesy A History of Art in Africa.

Image: Oba Ariwajoye I, Ruler of Ila-Orangun, Yoruba, Nigeria, 1977. Photo courtesy of “A History of Art in Africa.”

Benin Oba Akenzua II laden in coral for orisa Olokun, power of the seas, represented also on an ikengobo personal altar[11]

Image: Benin Oba Akenzua II (Ruled 1933-78) in Regalia, Benin City, Nigeria, 1960s. Photo courtesy A History of Art in Africa.

Image: Benin Oba Akenzua II (Ruled 1933-78) in Regalia, Benin City, Nigeria, 1960s. Photo courtesy A History of Art in Africa.

It is said that ”Great men move slowly.”[12]

Image: Termite mound.

Image: Termite mound.

Termite mound

Termites

Image: Tasty pan-fried flying ant snack.

Image: Tasty pan-fried flying ant snack.

DM me for the recipe; I’m preparing you for the apocalypse. (This is not a drill!)

Image: Slide from The Ramm Riff. Design by the author.

Image: Slide from The Ramm Riff. Design by the author.

We are resourceful people, wan u Tiv.

Yam farmers of Benue State.

What we carry with us into the future, what we leave behind…

In my 2011 article “Are You Ready to Alter Your Destiny?: Chicago and Afro-Futurism, Part 2 of 2”, I describe Afro-Futurism as “hot, moist, black, nutrient-rich, deep in the bowels of memory and soul iterations…” Quoting Julian Jonker from “Black Secret Technology (The Whitey on the Moon Dub)”[13]: “The central fact in Black Science Fiction…is an acknowledgment that the Apocalypse already happened: that (in Public Enemy’s phrase) Armageddon been in effect.” I continue: “Afro-Futurism says: even “solid” matter is made of slow-moving molecules; Jesus walked on water and you can, too.”[14]

 

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Traveling through time and space

Prescience

Prophetic

What we see

Learning to trust

The gut knows

Reading the signs

Reading the bones

Dogon cosmology of Sirius B Po Tolo

The journey to take root among the stars (Lauren Oya Olamina, Earthseed: Books of the Living)

Image: Book cover for Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

Image: Book cover for Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

For real, to actually be there, taking root among the stars. This is not a dream.

Dr. Mae Jemison’s 100 Year Starship leads the way.

Image: Webpage for Dr. Mae Jemison’s 100 Year Starship initiative.

Image: Webpage for Dr. Mae Jemison’s 100 Year Starship initiative.

#thatshowitsdone

How to shape shift across the universe, deep space, deep sea, whale calls like Saturn’s rings…

Can you hear the singing?

“We’re living in the space age/We’re living in the space age/No matter who you are, no matter where you are.”

Image: June Tyson of the Sun Ra Solar Arkestra.

Image: June Tyson of the Sun Ra Solar Arkestra.

We are made of stars. If so, we are light years occurring simultaneously of the light that animates and makes us cellularly visible to be perceived. Dynamic beyond imagining.

Data on Star Trek says:

“It has happened, it will happen.”

Mutatis Mutandis “those things which must be changed having been changed”

A state of being in flux, simultaneously the need for change and the act of that change already having been manifest

Inhabiting future vision and its realization

“Afro-Futurism is an exploration and methodology of liberation, simultaneously both a location and a journey.”[15]

Spiral life.

Time as composite, time as layers[16]

For her essay-reclamation project of Detroit Techno in “Blackness in Present Future Tense,” Wendy Walters writes:

“Detroit Techno artists manifest possibility by fusing history. The past, present, and future exist simultaneously as in a layered effect of a software graphics program…Detroit’s cultural history becomes a landscape of information and Detroit Techno is a composite resulting from a fusing of these influences…’Detroit Techno is aerial. It transmits along routes through space, is not grounded by the roots of any tree,’ notes Kodwo Eshun.”[17]

Mark Rockeymoore conceptualizes Afro-Futurism as a spiral rooted in the afro:

“Afrofuturism is not science fiction.  It is not a mechanical, technology driven vision of the future because an afro ain’t never been about anything constricting or orderly, in the hierarchical sense.  Rather, an afro is free-flowing, loving the wind.  Changing, shifting and drifting on the breez, bending this way, puffing out or just plain swaying gently from side to side, following the whimsical inclinations of the melanated person upon whose head it is perched.”[18]

Flow.

Remember that Star Trek episode when Worf was coming back from one of his battle events and he passed through a portal that caused him to live all possible life lines at once?

Infinite possibility…

Image: Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrors.

Image: Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room––The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013.

 

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And the Arkestra sings, “We travel the spaceways/From planet to planet.”

Ritual as the vessel and how?

1) Your Body as Vessel-Portal

In “Afrofuturism on Web 3.0: Vernacular Cartography and Augmented Space,” Nettrice R. Gaskins illuminates the work of Sanford Biggers who “refers to Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman as an astronaut who traverses “the south to the north by navigating the stars.” Biggers constructs eighteenth and nineteenth century historical quilts as maps to new galaxies where passengers chart new destinations in search of freedom. The idea of Tubman as an astronaut is a good starting point for examining our relationship to the boundless dimensions of space in which people, objects, and events have relative position and direction. Tubman followed the North Star by night, making her way from the South, to and from Pennsylvania and Canada while guiding others to freedom. Passengers followed codes embedded in quilts hanging in front of the safe houses with symbols telling them where to go and when the next “train” would come.  These quilt-based maps may be viewed as cultural or vernacular space that emanate from the customs and rituals of a given community.”[19]

2) Spaceships

The Mothership

Image: The Mothership in exhibition at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. Photo credit: Elissa Tenny.

Image: The Mothership on display at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. Photo credit: Elissa Tenny.

“Swing low sweet chariot stop and let me riiiiide! / If you wanna ride, help me sing.”

Your liberation is dependent upon your action

The Revolution will not be televised. Word to Gil Scott Heron.

3) Music

Sun Ra’s transrelequization: “Teleport the whole planet through music.”

Teleportation

In 2007, Edgar Arceneaux, Vincent Galen Johnson, Olga Koumoundouros, Rodney McMillian, and Matthew Sloly participated in a Philosophy of Time Travel Roundtable Discussion for their exhibition of the same title at the Studio Museum in Harlem, moderated by curator Christine Y. Kim.

Edgar Arceneaux stated:

“Sun Ra and the Parliaments. Particularly for the Afrofuturists, the blackness of outer space has a certain analogy to black identity. Ra’s desire to create a certain a new society on Saturn, and more importantly, it is also a space of infinite nothingness, that one can escape the boundedness of history. If you consider The Parliaments as well as Sun Ra, and the malleability of that group as a symbol, constantly shifting their approach to meet the needs of their work. It is the moments of synchronicity when it appears to be utter chaos, and once you’re connected to the melody, you’re still being taken off to space. You are hooked on one level, and totally blasted of into the next, and it’s all happening at the same time at different points in space.”[20]

“The music is different here.”

[Soundtrack created for Corpus Meum, the author’s sound installation-site activation at the Arts Club of Chicago, 2.28.2018]

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 9.25.58 PMMalidoma Patrice Somé on Dagara and the West’s visions of the future: “I decided to do a little experiment of my own with “reality” versus “imagination” when I was home visiting my village in 1986. I brought with me a little electronic generator, a television monitor, a VCR, and a “Star Trek” tape titled The Voyage Home…The events unfolding in a science fiction film, considered futuristic or fantastic in the West, were perceived by my elders as the current affairs in the day-to-day lives of some other group of people living in the world….They had no trouble understanding light speed and teleportation except that they could have done it more discreetly…My elders were comfortable with “Star Trek,” the West’s vision of its own future…the wonders that Westerners imagine being part of their future are very much a part of my elders’ present. The irony is that the West sees the indigenous world as primitive or archaic. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the West could learn to be as “archaic” as my elders are?”[21]

 

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Time as inextricably linked to location

The liminal:

Performance art exposes this via interaction, manipulation of site, object, gesture. We enter the archives, spaces of manipulation, rejection and inclusion, reclamation, and rectification to reshape history by illuminating Dark Matter. In her Dark Matter anthology “Introduction: Looking for the Invisible,” Sheree Reneé Thomas posits with regard to early Black science fiction writers:

“Dark matter as a metaphor offers us an interesting way of examining blacks and science fiction.  The metaphor can be applied to a discussion of the individual writers as black artists in society and how that identity affects their work.  It can also be applied to a discussion of their influence and impact on the sf genre in general…They became dark matter, invisible to the naked eye; and yet their influence—their gravitational pull on the world around them—would become undeniable.”[22]

We can reshape the past, via anthology, illuminating what was there but unseen (by some), righting wrongs, changing the shape of the past we thought we knew. Perhaps this is a fleshing out to fullness of what it was beyond absence or fragments of narratives, jettisoning the linear for a spiral, nuanced offering. We travel back via the object in space, the creative product. Perhaps, as has been suggested, every home is a museum. We shape our own pasts through the object of the present-future, objects as mnemonics, constructing and reconstructing narratives through arrangement, installation, what is remembered, what is deliberately forgotten or invisibilized… Shifting the object shifts the referent’s location points in history and future.

This is why I engage holistic design as an Afro-Futurist act of sculpting space: this is the power to reframe, to shape narrative. Objects function as conduits to sculpt energy, conscious and intentional alchemic transformation. With In the Luscious Garden, we work to cultivate radical joy on a cellular level.

Shape-shifting through the liminal….

 

Image: Featuring Herbie Hancock’s 1973 Future Shock album cover.

Image: Featuring Herbie Hancock’s 1973 Future Shock album cover.

John Akomfrah’s Data Thief

Trickster arts

Codes

Transmissions

Dots and dashes

“We travel the spaceways from planet to planet”

In “Afro-Futurism: A Statement of Intentions—Outside In, Inside Out,” Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid, offers this definition of the Afro-Futurism zone, comparable to the Zoom Zone described by Amiri Baraka in “Bopera Theory”:

“The Afro-Futurism Zone is a place where the issues that have come to be defined as core aspects of African-American ethnicity and its unfolding in the Americas disappeared, replaced by a zone of electromagnetic interactions—simulations, coded exchanges of ideology…legacies of displacement translated into the binary space between the algorithms [of] electro-modernity. Urban culture, transitory flows of identity along the lines of flight demarcated by the streets, the lights, the sounds, the representations that hold it all together.”[23]

Image: Photo of Amiri Baraka with quote from “Bopera Theory” from Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora.

Image: Photo of Amiri Baraka with quote from “Bopera Theory” from Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora.

Detroit’s sonic architectures and Tyree Guyton’s speculative architectures of the Heidelberg Project. Shifts in scale, re-framing site, surrealist space, histories revisited, memories reconfigured, reclaimed.

Time/Space shifts in Detroit past-present-future[24]

Recovery projects belie projected narratives of Black abjection, uncovering hidden histories, including LGBTQIA histories, sites such as the home and printing press of Ruth Ellis, the oldest known living African-American lesbian circa 2000 (word to director, producer Yvonne Welbon and Sisters in Cinema); Ingrid LaFleur’s Afrotopia, cryptocurrencies reclaiming Black Futures; Earthseed Detroit; and other creative strategies, projects, and practitioners for social justice.

Uncovering our past is uncovering our future, revealing what has been known, honoring ancestral work.

As we uncover in present, we are on the precipice of the past, always stepping into future-state, each moment, each tick of the clock and its constructed time-space.

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man becomes proto-hacker, harnessing power in the bowels of the city to power his Louis Armstrong records.[25]

Digital pathways

The In-Between

Surfing the interwebs, the nooks and the crannies, the hidden trap doors

Moten and Harney’s Undercommons

Image: Book cover of Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, The Undercommons.

Image: Book cover of Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, The Undercommons.

“Fugitivity”

Digital code in

Hair plaits.patterns.fractal villages.Matrix.sound waves.

Image: Hair plaiting to learn math, images courtesy Ron Eglash.

Image: Hair plaiting to learn math, images courtesy Ron Eglash.

Ghosts in the machine

Afrofuturism 2.0’s “Hip Hop Holograms: Tupac Shakur, Technological Immortality, and Time Travel”[26]

Tupac is Alive and Here With Us!

Technologically mediated ritual performance in digital space[27]

The beat, the beat, the beat

“Up for the down stroke”

Process:

Ogun’s machete cuts through, traversing the chthonic realm as detailed in Wole Soyinka’s “The Fourth Stage.”[28]

It is intentional, rooted ritual that takes us outside of space-time into the fourth stage, to construction-destruction principle, immerse in process, away from linearity of product, a central BAM tenet that shifted value away from a finalized result (one often sanctioned or praised by those exterior to community and immediate individuals involved with the work) and shifting value to the process, the moment, the action in relationship of self to community in dialogue/communion, away from achievement of mimetic reference but rather improvisational prowess and interactive experience, shifting us outside of staid, set notions of self in relation to other within the continuum

Astronomer and educator Brian Méndez of UC Berkeley in a discussion of time references Book XI of Confessions of St. Augustine writes, “St. Augustine proposed that time is measured in the mind. It is not an event itself that is measured but the impression that it leaves on the mind. The mind expects the future, which becomes the present, which the mind attends, and then becomes the past, which the mind remembers. The future and past do not exist, but in the mind there is expectation of the future and remembrance of the past. The present has no duration and still the mind’s attention persists. So it is not the future which is long but a long expectation of the future. Likewise, it is not the past that was long but a long remembrance of the past. St. Augustine ended his discussion of time with the conclusion that it is something measured in the mind, a human conception.”[29]

Sun Ra says “Consider time as officially ended.”

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 9.32.44 PM

In W.E.B DuBois’ “The Comet” from 1920, time slows, almost stops, the storyline almost seems to offer an escape from racist reality that still clings post-disaster and speeds back up with discovery of other living humans, a flickering moment of possibility extinguished by reinstatement of racist structures.

Dark matter

Black holes

Death stars

Speed of light, speed of light, faster than the speed of light

African Cosmos illuminates ancient cosmologies, foundations of life on Earth and beyond.

Image:Book cover of African Cosmos: Stellar Arts.

Image: Book cover of African Cosmos: Stellar Arts.

Stevie Wonder sings “A star’s a seed, a seed’s a star a seed” for Po Tolo in Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.

Image: Album cover for Stevie Wonder, Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.

Image: Album cover for Stevie Wonder, Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.

Calvino’s Invisible Cities reconfigures the face of a city into a series of morphing tales.

Our ability to reshape past, present, future, to craft new narratives, harking to past and looking to future is the creative methodology of Afro-Futurism.

A methodology of liberation:

To open the archive, to curate and shepherd is to shape-shift self, object, histories

To illuminate in a way that re-tells the past and thus shifts its entire structure, the shape of information

Gatekeepers to the archive-portals: will you be a force for change or maintain the status quo?

How far does your future vision extend?

Black Quantum Futurism Community Futures Lab helps North Philly residents facing dislocation to write and build themselves into the future of history.

Sun Ra’s Outer Spaceways Incorporated

#Resistance101 (Word to Sam Greenlee, may he rest in peace.)

Who controls the future?

Image: Excerpt from Sun Ra Space Probe 1974 album re-issue.

Image: Excerpt from Sun Ra Space Probe 1974 album re-issue.

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 9.34.32 PMWe explore the notion of time as malleable, a construction, as able to be manipulated. What does it mean when we begin to understand our agency in relation to time? How can we see ourselves in a spiral continuum?  This is a methodology of reframing as an exercise that hones the muscles/the shape-shifting muscles/ability. Rasheedah Phillips and Camae Ayewa aka Moor Mother of Community Futures Lab create a space of agency to gather histories and disrupt dislocation efforts in North Philly. In the philosophical foundations for her time travel exercises Phillips describes as “event mapping,” “memories are not formed in regard to a specific date or time but rather embedded or weaved in and controllable in future memory. The present state depends on both the future and the past measurement in backward causation. You can make a date of your choosing a part of the memory, which means you can forecast or backcast events.”[30]

Image: Rasheedah Phillips and Camae Ayewa of Afrofuturist Affair, Community Futures Lab, and Black Quantum Futurism.

Image: Rasheedah Phillips and Camae Ayewa of Afrofuturist Affair, Community Futures Lab, and Black Quantum Futurism.

Retrain your imagination and understanding of your self in time-space, pushing outside of socialization to shift memories, core building-blocks of identity, manipulating the reference points, releasing the hold of past on present and future, future on past and present and beyond through a reconfiguration of our spatial relationship to memories so that a future event is now past, specifically a past we have shaped through our future visioning. It (now) exists as a creation of that future vision. This has powerful implications around liberation and within the realm of healing traumatic memories.

In Black Quantum Futurism: Theory and Practice, Phillips describes Sasa and Zamani conceptions of time among the Swahili:

“Sasa time is roughly analogous to what Eurocentric thought calls the present, but much more nuanced including the immediate past, and the immediately impinging future (just around the corner reality). Zamani time wholly overlaps Sasa time, but unlike it, extends into the distant, if not eternal, past.  Again, it may be rendered in the West as the past, except it differs in that in overlapping Sasa time, Zamani time also includes the present and some small portion of that which is understood as future.  The third dimension of time is potential time which is actually much closer to what Euro-centrism calls the future.  Unlike in that latter intellectual construct though, it is speculative and its character and existence is prefigured and determined by the actions that individuals and collectives take within the working realms of Zamani and Sasa…Even the the eternal past is understood as immediately and presently accessible.”[31]

She references the work of D. Nikitah Imani regarding African conceptual time, who has posited that:

“Your activity is what determines how quickly or slowly time moves, not a mathematically pre-determined rate of time where, if you do not fit your activity within the rate, you either end up with a surplus or shortage of time. Time is not its own entity in the African consciousness; it is a component of events and an experience that can be created, produced, saved, or retrieved.”[32]

Image: Book cover of Rasheedah Phillips, Black Quantum Futurism: Theory & Practice, Vol. I.

Image: Book cover of Rasheedah Phillips, Black Quantum Futurism: Theory & Practice, Vol. I.

Dr. Mendez highlights that “In the language of the Nava[h]o there is no past, present, and future tense like those of many languages. Events are talked about with regard to their quality of happening rather than their temporal quality. Is it possible that time may not really exist, but is just an artifact of our biological and cultural evolution?” He quotes Albert Einstein just prior to his death: “The distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”[33]

We begin to understand the “present” as a construction.

We exist within the liminal.

That ancestral space

Nommo

Image: Nommo slide. Design by the author.

Image: Nommo slide. Design by the author.

Water

Moyo Okediji counsels “Water always finds its own level.”

Water as foundational building block

Moved by the tides

Drexciya revisited:

Remixed mythologies, pregnant African women, enslaved in Middle Passage, thrown/jumped into the Atlantic, their babies born in the watery depths, “aquatic afronautic beings rising up to deliver whitey a beatdown”[34] to rectify, rising up to reclaim, rising up for retribution.

Engage techniques to dislodge ourselves from the construction of the “present” moment.

We are of it; we have agency to shape it.

Fatimah Tuggar’s soft power confronts colonial constructions of the construction that is “Africa”, challenging notions of technology, the future, who has agency within it.[35]

Sonic interventions by Mendi + Keith Obadike

Sonic interjections, sonic mark-making, leaving my mark on the Library of Congress for Decolonizing Mars/Becoming Interplanetary

What is the effect?

How is destiny altered?

Imagine:

The Grand Canyon and a river flowing through it + time, a long time, a very very long time, that which is not immediately perceptible on a surface level

Time

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 9.39.31 PMPerformance portals alter time-space, for performer and audience.

Archives, incantations, conjures

We can corporeally extricate ourselves from the bonds of set time-space conceptions via:

The Chant and the Gesture:

For Wan Chuku and the Mystical Yam Farm curated by Moyo Okediji in 2015, I painted virtually across space and time alongside video of Akire Mothers, shrine painters of southern Nigeria, in motion. Okediji was able to enter the shrine through a process of ritual re-gendering. His witnessing of their mystical work, the laden visual archive of the shrine, illuminated the invisible in a cross-temporal, cross-media virtual collaboration through gestural composition.

Image: D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem, Wan Chuku and the Mystical Yam Farm, 2015-16. Photo credit: Casey Pankey, OSUMA.

Image: D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem, Wan Chuku and the Mystical Yam Farm, 2015-16. Photo credit: Casey Pankey, OSUMA.

Portals and mnemonic devices:

Luba lukasa memory board

Cuneiform, lukasa, iphone: Humans love a handheld device.

Image: Composite showing human handheld devices. Design by the author.

Image: Composite showing human handheld devices. Design by the author.

Object as activated portal

Arkestra, mantra, sonic disruptions, sonic interventions

Harnessing the durational

Pushing thresholds of site and time:

Ana Mendieta and the ashé moment, a reclamation of lost identities, separation and reunification with the land of one’s birth, becoming one with earth, ashé incarnate[36]

Group body as activated portal: see Pauline Oliveros’ Experimental Dialogue artwork/exercise

(Thank you to musicologist Ryan Dohoney for sharing this at our Arts Club of Chicago panel.)

Sound interactivity deconstructs and reconstructs the sense of self.  Sonic gestures allow portals to step outside of the rigidity of place i.e. physical, mental, spiritual locators and sites to which we cling in order to formulate notions of selfhood.

Formulated to develop empathy, stripped of our identifiers, exercising atrophied muscles

First movements toward change

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 9.41.35 PMAlter-Destiny 888.  Last month 8.8.2018 was the 10th anniversary (addition of the “1”) of that work at Roger Smith Arts, 42nd and Lexington, crossroads, cutting in reference to Ogun in my Pan incarnation, dancing with interiority and exteriority on the corner, glass windows reflecting the smashing of dried clumps of clay, clay molded to fit the garment, drag along behind, the calcified bodies of fibroids, cysts, fetuses in stone, hair, smothered in earth…sculpting, singing, dragging, drying, smashing, singing, release.

Image: D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem, Alter-Destiny 888, The Lab for performance+installation, Roger Smith Arts, NY, 2008. Photo courtesy Panman Productions.

Image: D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem, Alter-Destiny 888, The Lab for performance+installation, Roger Smith Arts, NY, 2008. Photo courtesy Panman Productions.

Ritual

Gesture

…Clay…Hair…Earth…

…Sculpt…Stroke…Smother…

…Clay…Hair…Earth…

…Sculpt…Stroke…Smother…

Align with ancestral force

Heal ancestral trauma

Epigenetics, inherited and lived trauma

Stories in the belly

DNA legacies: time travels though DNA, healing the past

Henrietta Lacks and her stolen cervical cells

Acknowledged victimhood before a quick rush to survival or forgiveness

Methodologies of ritual release

In “Form and Transformation: Immanence of the Soul in Performance Modes of Black Church and Black Music,” Paul Carter Harrison concludes:

“Ancestral memory, then, is the essential foundation of the aesthetic objectives of African American inventions, both sacred and secular. The soul is our fundamental reality, the repository of the ancestral spirit that fuels the imaginings of the mind. It is the inner force of such ancestral spirit—memory referred to by Robert Farris Thompson as a flash of the spirit—that also guides the imagination.”[37]

Amiri Baraka’s “Revolutionary Theatre” manifesto: “What is called the Imagination (from image, magi, magic, magician, etc.) is a practical vector from the soul. It stores all data, and can be called on to solve all our “problems.” The imagination is the projection of ourselves past our sense of ourselves as “things.” Imagination (image) is all possibility, becomes from the image, the initial circumscribed energy and use (idea) is possible. And so begins that image’s use in the world. Possibility is what moves us.”[38]

[Soundtrack from Super Space Riff: An Ode to Mae Jemison and Octavia Butler in VIII Stanzas, premiered at Hyde Park Art Center, 2006. “Super Space Riff: DNA Opera feat. Rev. Kimberly Crutcher”]

The alter-destiny as time travel

Sun Ra appears to the youth of Planet Earth (aka a Youth Center in Oakland, California) and in response to their questions, he states:

“How do you know I exist?  I don’t.  You don’t exist.  If you did, you would have some status among the peoples of the world…You are myth.  I come to you as the myth… I am a presence sent to you by your ancestors, the alter-destiny.”

Alter-Destiny

Ashé, catalytic life force

Catalyze, to set in motion, to bring together, initiate a desired effect

Sun Ra: “Teleport the whole planet through music.”

“The beauty that is you, your instrument in this vast arkestry of life”

Image: Still from Space Is The Place.

Image: Still from Sun Ra’s Space Is The Place.

Your voice

Cosmic, infinite dimensional, teleportation device

Sound waves that beckon and repel, the Word, voice, sound force as moldable energy

Sonic restitution

Sonic reclamation

Sonic healing

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 9.43.11 PMGod is… 

Image: Still from Grace Jones “Corporate Cannibal” music video.

Image: Still from Grace Jones’ “Corporate Cannibal” music video.

Lauren Oya Olamina in Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler:

Earthseed: Books of the Living, 2024

“All that you touch you change

All that you change changes you

The only lasting truth is change

God is change.”[39]

Grace Jones and the robots

Terminator traversing time

An army at the ready

Discipline

Ready for the revolution

“When the revolution! When the revolution comes!” The Last Poets giving it to us straight.

Ready.

Jae Jarrell’s Revolutionary Suit, 1969: time traveling, code-switching, shape-shifting from office to the revolution

Image: Jae Jarrell, Revolutionary Suit, 1969.

Image: Jae Jarrell, Revolutionary Suit, 1969.

Left right…left right…left right… (Salute)

We the People.

Gil Scott Heron “Whitey on the Moon”:

“A rat done bit my sister Nell (with whitey on the moon)/Her face and arms began to swell (but whitey’s on the moon).”

Memories of childhood

Can time-space reconfiguration heal?

Moonlight (Word to Barry Jenkins)

Image: Still from Barry Jenkins' Moonlight, 2017.

Image: Still from Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, 2017.

The shifting light blue-black light of the Moon

Glenn Ligon’s Blue Black

Chiron

Image: Planet Chiron.

Image: Planet Chiron.

Malcolm X had Chiron in Aries, childhood wounds around voice that lead through difficulty to greatest strengths in adulthood.

Chiron sits in Aries in 2018:

Chiron The Wounded Healer

What are your wounds?

How can we heal a wounded past-present-future?

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 9.46.48 PMOri

Oríkì

Voice

Ori Inu, inner head, the knowledge contained within, true infinite self

 We call upon the ancestors, living and passed.

We call upon the trickster Eshu-Elegbara to guide our paths, allow us to face and rise above challenges, to learn and grow.

Open the crossroads [Clap! Clap!]

Bone Thugs N Harmony “Tha Crossroads” [Sing: “bada bum bum bum bum bum”]

Reading the cowries

16 the sacred number in Yoruba Ifa divination

Throw the cowries high, Mama, high, Mama, one for each year of life.

One ray of light as of this writing: The police officer who killed Laquan MacDonald was indicted on 16 counts.

Image: Slide of the number “16” by author.

Image: Slide of the number “16” by author.

Manslaughter

Capital M

The Just Us system

No justice no peace

Finally

50 years coming

Time travel back to 1968

Africobra, the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists

Last year’s 50th: the Detroit Riots

Next year’s 50th: the Moon Landing

16 shots

16 counts

This is the truth.  This is the story.

We tell ourselves through our words.

We write ourselves into being.

I will never be silenced again…

Ashé.

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 9.48.53 PMAncestors, living and passed, we hail you, we praise you.

This is a praise song, a journey through time and space.

Contemporary Global African art practices illuminate the interstices between here, there, now, then, reflecting multiple time frames simultaneously, identities re-presented, reconfigured, locations shifted. What you thought you knew…who you thought you were…

Where is from? Where is to?

Points of reference, perspective drawing vanishing points, point A to…

M

Memory

Time…slowed down…dusty roads and goats giving birth on the side of the road, a gaggle of kids giggling as we watch…heat rippling…time seems to stop…lazy snakes drip from mango trees and sun-kissed bees hum around cashew blossoms… palm fronds and banana bikes against a dazzling southern California sky…

What are your memories?

M

Mohau Modisakeng

Watery portals: shifting our experience of place and space, mnemonic devices, revisit pasts, consider dreams of future, where we are physically and energetically located

O

Otobong Nkanga

To Dig a Hole that Collapses Again

The dust of time does not erase

Bearing witness, carrying stone/mineral/earth, from locations of disruption to trace the path, disrupt its placement in new sites, Namibia to Berlin, reclamation of object, site, history, illuminating dark matter.

Holding Europe to account.

We see you.

Y

Yinka Shonibare

Martin Luther capsule, Philly music and adinkra astronaut space suits, sited in a church for Evoking Histories in Charleston, SC

Sacred future visioning

Z

Zak Ové

Ancient Benin meets the astronaut in Umbilical Progenitor

Take us back in time and forward to an afronautic future, a voyaging present.

Inhabit the liminal/the Al/the past-present-future.

Titus Kaphar cuts, reveals, reframes.

Magdalena Maria Campos-Pons inhabits multiple positionalities, otherworldly and yet full of Earth, Sky, Stars.

Image: Maria Magdalena Campos Pons, Finding Balance, 2015. Photo by author at Gallery Wendi Norris, EXPO Chicago, 2018.

Image: Maria Magdalena Campos Pons, Finding Balance, 2015. Photo by author at Gallery Wendi Norris, EXPO Chicago, 2018.

“Your body made of stars”

Mythic Being (Word to Adrian Piper) “I am what you most fear.”

Transcendental Mother

Our Mothers who paved the way, Our Mothers

Birds of the night.

Walking in the footsteps of

Yaa Asantewaa, QueenMother who rose up in battle

against the British

Image: Historic photo of QueenMother Yaa Asantewaa.

Image: Historic photo of QueenMother Yaa Asantewaa.

Legendary Dahomey Warriors and the Dora Milaje

Of Califia, it was written:

“Transgressing the boundaries of nature and her sex”

“Sitting unashamedly astride”[40]

Oya

Ogun

The machete

Mars

The Warrior

Blue Lady from The Fifth Element

Image: Mula, the Blue Lady from The Fifth Element, 1997.

Image: Mula, the Blue Lady from The Fifth Element, 1997.

Santa Marta Dominadora and Lilith Moon meet Yayoi Kusama in a Gothic Chapel

Image: Composite image designed by the author featuring Yayoi Kusama's Dots Obsession installation and portrait.

Image: Composite image designed by the author featuring Yayoi Kusama’s Dots Obsession installation and portrait.

 

Trailblazers, Badasses, and Prophets [Clap! Clap!]

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 9.54.22 PM

We reveal ourselves in the past.

We celebrate ourselves in the present.

We write ourselves into the future.

Devil Girl from Mars: 11 year old Octavia Butler thinks: “I can do better than that.”

Image: Devil Girl from Mars film poster.

Image: Devil Girl from Mars film poster.

Reclaiming the Black presence: Harriet Tubman as shape-shifter Afro-Futurist time traveler in real time[41]

Reclaiming the Black presence: Hidden Figures: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson without whom none of us would be here in this room today

Reclaiming the Black presence: The Immortal Henrietta Lacks whose stolen cervical cells paved the way for every advance in science and medicine we know today

Reclaiming the Black presence: Nichelle Nichols aka Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura who paved the way for Black folk in NASA, space and beyond

Reclaiming the Black presence: Dr. Mae Jemison, first Black woman in space, and 100 Year Starship making a way for revolutionary, justice-centered visions of future planetary exploration

Image: Dr. Mae Jemison, official NASA portrait.

Image: Dr. Mae Jemison, official NASA portrait.

Reclaiming the Black presence: Dr. Margaret Burroughs visionary, artist, educator, advocate, roller skater, Chicago legend, and founder of the DuSable Museum of African-American History

Reclaiming the Black presence: Jae Jarrell and her Revolutionary Suit, tweed skirt and bandolier, ready for the office and the revolution

Reclaiming the Black presence: Nina Simone, putting the revolution to music

As Nina Simone invoked the audience: “My daughter has sacrificed her mother for you, for this music, for this Word.  I want all doors open for her.” [Clap Clap]

Image: Nina Simone.

Image: Nina Simone.

We built this nation.

We built this world.

We built this planet.

We were there, we are here, we will always be.

 

Rectification [Clap! Clap!]

Reparation [Clap! Clap!]

Reclamation [Clap! Clap!]

 

I am what you most fear

I am what you most fear

I am what you most fear

Leap through time

To cut your neck

 

I am what you most fear

 

Reclamation!

Reparation!

Rectification!

 

In this time travel we engage, who will be left standing?

 

Time after time

Time after time

Time after time

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 9.55.34 PMPele, goddess who devours the earth,

erupts in Hawaii

Indigenous peoples say “If I must move, I will move. Let her be.”

Ritual involves sacrifice

Nature’s primacy and what we learn about time from nature, how it assists us:

Malidoma’s divination

Osayin healing

Trees and their deep communication systems

The Seed

Wanuri Kahiu’s Pumzi:

Image: Wanuri Kahiu, stills from Pumzi.

Image: Wanuri Kahiu, stills from Pumzi.

“Take your dream suppressants.

Take your dream suppressants.

Take your dream suppressants.”

The Seed

Ecological connectedness

Interstellar webs

“Take root among the stars” (Word to Octavia Butler)

On Friday, November 2, 2018, you are invited to a gathering of Octavia Butler artists/scholars/practitioners for a panel discussion about Parable of the Sower in conjunction with my Fall 2018 Prof Prac studio-seminar course “To Take Root Among The Stars: The Legacy of Octavia Butler, Surviving the 21st Century & Beyond” for which students are building survival go packs, mapping systems, urban foraging, and keeping travel journals for a December 12 exhibition. Join us for this  interdisciplinary conversation with Dr. Sami Schalk, A. Martine Whitehead, Huong Ngo, and Chelsea Frazier about Butler’s legacy and the guidance her works provide especially in these times.

Image: Poster for November 2 “Take Root Among The Stars” Panel.

Image: Poster for November 2, 2018 “Take Root Among The Stars” Panel at the School of the Art Institute.

Lauren Oya Olamina, Earthseed: Book of the Living

“God is Change.”[42]

 

Ritual of the kola nut

Image: Kola nut and text collage. Design by the author.

Image: Kola nut and text collage. Design by the author.

To seal our covenant with each other, in this altered time-space

Opening the portals to our future vision,

Let the chant, the sacred drum of our words, ignite, illuminate, conjure.

Say it with me now:

“Trickster

Teacher

Chaos

Clay”[43]

Ashé!


DenengeByRJEldridge-2017-1D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem is an Afro-Futurist space sculptor, performance artist, and writer whose work has been featured at the Library of Congress, the Arts Club of Chicago, Red Bull Arts NY, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and numerous other institutions. She is currently working on a series of book projects and is contributing an Afro-Futurist take on the 1969 Moon landing for the upcoming commemorative exhibition at Kunsthaus Zurich. www.denenge.net  @DenengeTheFirst

[Photo Credit: RJ Eldridge]


Featured Image: D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem, The Ramm Riff feat. Black Light Primal Nun ‘A’, No Guts, No Galaxy, Rammellzee: Racing for Thunder, Red Bull Arts NY, 2018. Photo credit: Tonika Johnson.


[1] Baraka, Amiri. “Bopera Theory.” In Paul Carter Harrison, Gus Edwards, and Victor Leo Walker III, eds., Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002.

[2] Hairston, Andrea. “Octavia Butler—Praise Song for a Prophetic Artist.”

[3] Abidoun, Rowland. “Understanding Yoruba Art and Aesthetics: The Concept of Asé,” African Arts 27, no. 3 (1994): 68–103.

[4] Lawal, Babatunde. “The African Origins of African-American Art.” In Paul Carter Harrison, Gus Edwards, and Victor Leo Walker III, eds., Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002.

[5] Phillips, Rasheedah. Black Quantum Futurism: Theory & Practice, Vol. I.  Philadelphia: The Afrofuturist Affair/House of Future Sciences Books, 2015.

[6] Kim, Christine Y. Philosophy of Life: Edgar Arceneaux, Vincent Galen Johnson, Olga Koumoundourus, Rodney McMilliam, and Matthew Sloly. New York: The Studio Museum of Harlem, 2007. p. 53.

[7] Somé, Malidoma Patrice. Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman. New York: Penguin Books, 1994. p. 241–242.

[8] Visona, Monica Blackmun, Robin Poynor, and Herbert M. Cole, eds. A History of Art in Africa. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008. p. 413.

[9] Cole, Herbert M. “Akan Worlds.” In Monica Blackmun Visona, Robin Poynor, and Herbert M. Cole, eds., A History of Art in Africa. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008. p. 197.

[10] Ibid, p. 239. Photo credit for figure 8-18: John Pemberton III, Amherst, MA.

[11] Ibid, p. 272,  274. Photo credit for figure 9-1 (B.M. # 1897.10.11.2) and 9-4 (R.E. Bradbury, courtesy of Mrs Ros Bradbury).

[12] Ibid, p. 200.

[13] Jonker, Julian. “Black Secret Technology (The Whitey on the Moon Dub),” December 4, 2002.

[14] Akpem, D. Denenge. “Are You Ready to Alter Your Destiny?: Chicago and Afro-Futurism, Part II”, Chicago Art Magazine, July 6, 2011.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Walters, Wendy. “Blackness in Present Future Tense: Broadside Press, Motown Records, and Detroit Techno.” In Lisa Gail Collins and Margo Natalie Crawford, eds., New Thoughts on the Black Arts Movement. New York: Rutgers University Press, 2006. p. 128.

[17] Ibid, p. 128.

[18] Rockeymoore, Mark. “What is Afrofuturism?,” February, 27, 2002.

[19] Gaskins, Nettrice. “Afrofuturism on Web 3.0: Vernacular Cartography and Augmented Space.” In Reynaldo Anderson and Charles E. Jones, eds., Afrofuturism 2.0. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2016. p. 27.

[20] Kim, Philosophy of Life, p. 62.

[21] Somé, Of Water and the Spirit, p. 8–9.

[22] Thomas, Sheree Reneé. “Introduction: Looking for the Invisible.” In Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora. New York: Warner Books, 2000.

[23] Baraka, “Bopera Theory,” p. 378.

[24] Walters, “Blackness in Present Future Tense,” p. 128.

[25] Yaszek, Lisa. “Afrofuturism, science fiction, and the history of the future,” Socialism and Democracy  20, no. 3 (2006): p. 41–60.

[26] McLeod, Ken. “Hip Hop Holograms: Tupac Shakur, Technological Immortality, and Time Travel” from Afrofuturism 2.0, eds. Reynaldo Anderson and Charles E. Jones, Lanham: Lexington Books, 2016.

[27] Gipson, Grace D. “Afrofuturism’s Musical Princess Janelle Monáe: Psychedelic Soul Message Music Infused with a Sci-Fi Twist.” In Reynaldo Anderson and Charles E. Jones, eds., Afrofuturism 2.0. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2016.

[28] Soyinka, Wole. “The Fourth Stage: Through the Mysteries of Ogun to the Origin of Yoruba Tragedy.” In Paul Carter Harrison, Gus Edwards, and Victor Leo Walker III, eds., Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002. p. 140–152.

[29] Méndez, Bryan J.  “Time Travel: There’s No Time Like Yesterday.”

[30] Phillips, Black Quantum Futurism, p. 26.

[31] Ibid, p. 41.

[32] Ibid, p. 24.

[33] Méndez, “Time Travel.”

[34] Walters, “Blackness in Present Future Tense,” p. 130.

[35] Nelson, Alondra. “Introduction: Future Texts.” Social Text: Afrofuturism  20, no.2 (2002): p. 1–15.

[36] Jacobs, Mary Jane. “Ashé in the Art of Ana Mendieta.” In Arturo Lindsay, ed.,  Santeria Aesthetics in Contemporary Latin American Art. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996.

[37] Harrison, Paul Carter. “Form and Transformation: Immanence of the Soul in Performance Modes of Black Church and Black Music.” In Paul Carter Harrison, Gus Edwards, and Victor Leo Walker III, eds., Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002. p. 316–331.

[38] Jones, LeRoi/Baraka, Amiri.  “The Revolutionary Theatre.” Liberator, July 1965.

[39] Butler, Octavia. Parable of the Sower. New York: Warner Books, 1993. p. 3.

[40] Weiss, Daniel H., and Lisa J. Mahoney, eds. France and the Holy Land: Frankish culture at the end of the Crusades. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2004. p. 206.

[41] Gaskins, Nettrice. “Afrofuturism on Web 3.0: Vernacular Cartography and Augmented Space.” In Reynaldo Anderson and Charles E. Jones, eds., Afrofuturism 2.0. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2016.

[42] Butler, Parable of the Sower.

[43] Ibid, p. 22.


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