D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem and the Future of Afrofuturism

D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem (MFA 2004), adjunct assistant professor in the Departments of Art History, Theory, and Criticism and Low-Residency MFA at the School, has been featured in Artnews, The Outline, and Newsweek. With recent talk of privately owned and operated commercial space exploration, Duyst-Akpem has been called on for her expertise regarding Afrofuturism, the recent boom of the movement, and humans in space.

The Outline, called upon noted creatives and academics within Afrofuturism to discuss its resurgence, and what it meant then versus now. Traditionally, Afrofuturism incorporated elements of historical fiction and fantasy to generate examples of Black stories in a space that was devoid of them. Duyst-Akpem thinks of Afrofuturism as “a methodology for black liberation” says The Outline, “a space for everyone to engage.”

In ArtnewsDuyst-Akpem and Nyugen Smith (MFA 2016) gathered for a site-specific ritual at the Schomburg Center for the Study of Black Culture in Harlem. After performing a “ring shout” reports Artnews the “two artists talked together about ways that ritual infiltrates traditions of Carnival and African diaspora.” Smith included that these spaces are also the center of colonialism, “Carnival, the masquerade, is a taking-over of that space: black bodies converging on this area to perform actions that may be considered vulgar, something not fit for proper ways of being. Carnival becomes this reclaiming of territory.”

Duyst-Akpem’s purview goes beyond earthbound issues. She spoke to Newsweek in late May about SpaceX. Duyst-Akpem worries that space exploration does not stop at observation. “It seems like there are some fundamental behavioral issues with humans that need to be addressed before we can really be trusted to do right by other planets,” she said.