Camo Coat v2: The Garden Collection

51 3Arts supporters
$4,740 raised of $6,000 goal
18 Days 09:46:11 LEFT
This project will only be funded if $6,000 is contributed to 3Arts by August 04, 2024, 11:59PM
    • 79% contributed
    • 21% to go

Afrofuturity opens portals to ever-unfolding constellations of possibility in representation and empowerment. 2024 heralds the start of Octavia Butler’s prophetic sci-fi novel, Parable of the Sower, a text by which I’ve long been inspired in teaching and practice. In honor of this moment at the story’s beginning, I plan to develop Camo Coat v2: The Garden Collection, a series of abstracted, kaleidoscopic textiles that engage the significance of this text through photographic commemoration of sites, specifically gardens both formal and personal, made through activation of these ancestral mycelial networks “in search of our Mothers’ gardens.”* This project centers the creative work of Black women like Butler who have planted seeds of freedom dreams and paved the way for liberation theories and global postcolonial movements rooted in holistic traditions and in the matrilineal adventures and badassery from which I am descended by blood and by choice.


About This Project


The diary of Octavia Butler’s protagonist, Lauren Oya Olamina, begins on July 20, 2024, an important date that will be marked during this campaign. Her middle name evokes Oya, Yoruba orisa of whirlwinds and storms, as she sets off on a perilous journey through a post-apocalyptic California on fire, traveling northward to freedom, to the creation of a new world she calls Earthseed, and, ultimately, “to take root among the stars.”

The Camo Coat Collection serves as a conceptual and practical engagement with contemporary “dazzle camouflage” and ideas of protection and healing, especially for Black queer femme individuals in the urban landscape. It arose first in the Osanyin Commemorative Portrait Series of NEH Fellows amidst the flora of Emory University campus, as an archive of this historic gathering in Black aesthetics and sacred systems, specifically referencing Osanyin, the orisa of forest wisdom often depicted as half human and half tree. A spiritual camouflage translated to garment in coded pattern, the original Camo Coat Collection featured eight ensembles launched with monograph AFRIFUTURI 02022020 on this palindrome date with a beautiful community at Blanc Gallery in historic Bronzeville. The project responded largely to Chicago, to surveillance and the art of the shapeshifter, to movement and navigation within city and rural spaces, and to sites of respite and inspiration from lakefront skylines to prairie grasses.

CCv2: The Garden Collection introduces a series of site-responsive textiles as the first of this ambitious project’s three main phases, including research and travel, textile design and fabrication, and public launches. The initial goal for the campaign is to cover costs for Phase One of the project, which is the most critical piece of what will become the future CCv2 Collection. It entails travel to specific gardens in the U.S. that have important references to the Parable story and to my ongoing practice centering themes of trace, reclamation, and healing through body, textile, and architecture. At each location, I will create photographs which I will then develop using African fractal design concepts into commemorative textiles for the collection, as well as a series of Black portraitures mapping the points of journey. 

Travel will include California and Massachusetts, with additional destinations here in Chicago. Locations in California include the desert gardens of the Huntington Library in Pasadena where Butler lived and where her archives are housed, and a pilgrimage to the historic Noah Purifoy Sculpture Garden in Joshua Tree (referencing years of teaching his work as part of the Black Arts Movement and Black West and inspired by his sculpture and activation of the body in performance). On the other side of the country, in Massachusetts I will photograph in the gardens of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the historic Olmsted-designed campus at alma mater Smith College (which includes Paradise Pond and campus Underground Railroad connections), and the healing gardens of chosen family centered at Bela Vegetarian Restaurant in Northampton, MA.

If I reach my initial fundraising goal early, ideally before the long-awaited Parable start date of July 20, then I will initiate a stretch goal to support the next phases of the project, which includes travel to other key reference locations in Morocco where I have been invited to a residency which will include photography within the Jnane Tamsna property gardens; to Senegal in a focus on water, West African textile, and embroidery during Dakar Fashion Week; and potentially to support future costs associated with the creation of and public launch activities for the official CCv2 Collection.

CCv2: The Garden Collection will be presented in 2025 along with next steps as supported by the additional phase stretch goals. Exhibitions may include Black women in Afrofuturism at the SFO Museum which, as an airport and center of international transit, will bring full circle the California connection with the Parable story’s travel from south to north. The travel to Boston, MA, will also include a visit to the MFA Boston which has acquired the Hip Hop Flounce Camo Coat from the original collection (modeled by Tonika Johnson of Folded Map). Ultimately, I plan to organize the CCv2 Collection ensembles launch featuring The Garden textiles.

 *In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens is the title of Alice Walker’s 1983 collected writings and originally an essay published in 1972, the year of my birth.



Thank yous

Contribute any amount or choose from the levels below.

  • $22
    A personal thank you on social media + sneak peek ($22.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $44
    Above, plus your name listed on project webpage and exclusive access to "The Garden," a 1-hour virtual design visit about the project’s development ($44.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $88
    Above, plus 1 original textile print postcard from the new collection with handwritten thank you ($78.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $111
    Above, plus a pair of paper solar glasses featuring new "CCv2: The Garden" textile collection design (launch souvenir) ($81.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $222
    Set of four "CCv2: The Garden" textile print postcards (2 to keep, 2 to share) with handwritten thank you, plus solar glasses, access to The Garden, your name on webpage & social media thanks ($162.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $444
    Furoshiki fabric square (20”x 20”) known as Shakuyonhaba, based on 1,200-year-old Japanese tradition of fabric gift wrapping, plus postcard with handwritten thank you, solar glasses, access to The Garden, your name on webpage & social media thanks ($314.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $888
    Limited Collector’s Edition AFRIFUTURI 02022020 Box from launch, plus postcard with handwritten thank you, solar glasses, access to The Garden, your name on webpage & social media thanks ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $1111
    Wan Chuku Mystical Yam Mound Mini-Sculpture (1 of 2 created at La Becque Residency): 11” tall, custom wrapped by artist, plus postcard with handwritten thank you, solar glasses, access to The Garden, your name on webpage & social media thanks ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $2222
    Wan Chuku Mystical Yam Mound Miniature: 24” tall, matching the original in late arts visionary Peggy Cooper Cafritz Collection plus postcard with handwritten thank you, solar glasses, access to The Garden, your name on webpage & social media thanks ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $8888
    Pair of original Wan Chuku’s Mystical Yam Mounds (5’ and 4’ feet, free-standing soft sculptures) plus postcard with handwritten thank you, solar glasses, access to The Garden, your name on webpage & social media thanks ($0.00 is tax deductible.)

D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem

Make a Wave Awardee

D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem is transnational “space sculptor,” whose award-winning teaching, art, and writing bridge modalities of ritual, design, ecology, and Afrofuturity. Her practice reflects an ongoing engagement with site, body, visibility, identity, and the politics of Black femme labor within …

View D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem's profile
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 Additional support provided by: 

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