Mikael Owuuna

Mikael Owunna is a Nigerian American multi-media artist, filmmaker, and engineer based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Exploring the intersections of science, technology, visual art, Blackness, and African cosmologies, his work seeks to elucidate an emancipatory vision of possibility that pushes people beyond all boundaries, restrictions, and frontiers.

Owunna’s work has been exhibited across Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America and been collected by institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Nasher Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Middlebury College Museum of Art; Equal Justice Initiative; Duke University Pratt School of Engineering; and National Taiwan Museum. His work has also been featured in media ranging from the New York Times to CNN, NPR, VICE, and The Guardian. He has lectured at venues including Harvard Law School, World Press Photo (Netherlands), Tate Modern (UK), and TEDx. Owunna has published two monographs: Limitless Africans (FotoEvidence, 2019) and Cosmologies (ClampArt, 2021). Owunna’s multi-media practice includes film, and in 2021 he directed the dance film Obi Mbu (The Primordial House) with Marques Redd. Owunna's work has been commissioned for major public art installations by organizations including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Foundation, Contemporary Art Museum Raleigh, Pittsburgh International Airport, and Orange Barrel Media.

Public Online Event — December 9 - 11

We Dream Worlds:

Wandering in the afrocene, afrofuturism, and womanism at the end of the world.

A public conversation, art-making, movin & groovin, and virtual co-dreaming into the cracks of the crumbling ground of modernity. We aim to find strange and new possibilities for a way forward, outside the confines of what has already been tried and found wanting.

The African diaspora is….

our specific site of wondering and wandering as we make our way through various virtual sensorial playgrounds — reviewing the archives and dancing with emergence. 

Who's invited?

Everybody! This is an event for all bodies interested in looking through often overlooked lenses to discover new ways of seeing emerging possible futures as we navigate these times of incredible loss, change, and generativity.

''The Afrocene is not about going back home, returning to originals. It is about the ongoing emergence of home – and the humility that attends to the placemaking practices that ‘home’ implies.''

— Bayo Akomolafe

''Afrofuturism is more than just breaking down racial constructs,
it is really a way of triggering the imagination so that people can look at themselves and celebrate. . ..It is about reclaiming humanity outside of racial norms. As one might guess based on the name, imagining the future of black people is an intrinsic part of Afrofuturism. However, not every futuristic setting that contains Black people constitutes a work of Afrofuturism. Central to the movement is its commentary on the place of Black people and Blackness in the future.''

— Ytasha Womack, Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture

With this collection you will….

Explore with a variety of instruments including film! lecture! dialogue! music! rest! and journaling! We will tease out ways of knowing and being as we gather around campfires for connection, art-making, movin & groovin, and co-dreaming into the cracks.

Perhaps we’ll find a way forward.

What futures become possible when...

We look inward to our bodies,
then as far out as the cosmos themselves...
through the lens of the African diaspora?
This is your guiding question and invitation.

Your journey here will traverse the borderlands (our social discourse at the margins of modernity) between relationality of ‘eco-womanism’ which locates knowing in the bodies and lived experiences of Black femmes for the purpose of restoring balance in the whole of creation, and back out into the cosmos where we’ll explore the application of the qualities of “black” in the universe.

Come down with us into the relationality of ecowomanist thought and up into the borderlands of cosmology with this collection.

Gather, sit, and consider…

What does it look like to dream in black?

What oracles can be found out in the black of the cosmos?

What is already emerging that we have
not yet been able to read into or see as possible?

About your hosts for this live experience…

Oceana Sawyer is…

... an End of Life (EOL) Doula who specializes in the liminal spaces of active dying and grief. She is currently researching the intersection of embodied grief and somatic abolitionism as well as developing and holding space for healing through a sensual (all the senses) lens. 

Here work with the Rooted Global Village is focused in the area of somatic grieving as a liberatory praxis as well as holding space for people of the African diaspora.

A certified home funeral celebrant, living funeral ceremony facilitator, and Conscious Dying Educator, Oceana also holds graduate degrees in counseling psychology and organizational development.

Cliff Berrien has…

35-years experience as a percussion student and teacher of several music traditions, including drumming styles from Brazil, the Caribbean, Africa and India.

He has long been interested in the work of Afrofuturist writers and has had the honor of exploring the genre with his colleague and mentor, Dr. Barbara Holmes, author of Race and the Cosmos and Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church.

These conversations deepened Cliff’s appreciation of womanist thought as a visionary landscape influenced by indigenous spirituality and woman-centered perspectives which place humans in a sacred web of life that includes plants, animals, elemental forces, the earth, the cosmos, and the living and the dead. 

“We cannot build what we cannot imagine.

— Walidah Imarisha

What's Happening & When: 

Film showing - Neptune Frost

The film is an Afrofuturist story set in a village in Rwanda made of computer parts, and centers on the relationship between Neptune, an intersex runaway, and Matalusa, a coltan miner, whose love leads a hacker collective.

“... I acknowledge that our common humanity will overcome the short-sighted attempts at riling our anger or mining our fears and attention to have us act with less than our hearts. What we share, what connects us, has always been wireless, beat-driven, and beholden to a purpose that aims at uplifting and contributing to the dialogue that drives humanity forward into greater and greater awareness.”

- Saul Williams - producer, co-director, composer

Together we will watch the film, and then spend 30 minutes in conversation space with one another afterward. 

Cliff Berrien
Your host for the showing >
The Afrocene Illuminated

To begin, we will spend a bit of time puzzling out what an afrocene is and how might it become a context for our passage out of this dying era of modernity and the anthropocene.

“I coined the term Afrocene to do some other kinds of work: to invite a noticing of the more-than-human constituents of our politics today to say that the world has ended many times, as I said, in that speech. And with the world ending, and with these cracks emerging, we are suddenly exposed to the diasporic quality of our bodies. So that, in a sense, we are no longer as composed as we were. And the idea here is that the human or whatever colonial project that can come to mind is not as resolutely stable for all time as we think it is.”

Bayo Akomolafe
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Generative Apocalypse

An oracle and reflective writing workshop where we look together at what the apocalypses we and our communities have survived are teaching us now.The apocalypse is not new. For Black communities the idea of apocalypse is not even futuristic, it is historical. The systemic world-ending survived by communities of the African diaspora has generated robust definitions of community, freedom and power.

Building on her afrofuturist book, M Archive: After the End of the World, Alexis will lead an interactive oracle lecture and reflective writing workshop where we look together at what the apocalypses we and our communities have survived are teaching us now.

Alexis Pauline Gumbs
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Dark Flow: Visionary Images of Mikael Owuuna

This visionary slideshow includes the photographs of the Infinite Essence and Cosmologies series, which place illuminated Black bodies into tableaux inspired by scenes from the archive of West African Dogon and Igbo myth. 

“This series presents a more complex version of the visual landscape I have created with its use of images with multiple figures, painted backdrops, and ultraviolet strobes which emit synchronized beams of ultraviolet light in total darkness to illuminate glowing scenes that animate creation myths from Igbo and Dogon cosmology.”

Cliff Berrien laid the images on top of a soundtrack that includes:

Mikael Owuuna
A Womanist View of Afrofuturism

This presentation will begin with a foundation in womanism. "I choose womanism as my means of interpreting the Divine Feminine in dark bodies, because it encodes the mysteries of life as well as a focus on community rather than individual rights…”  Barbara A. Holmes, Crisis Contemplation 2021

From this foundation, we will move from the darkness of the womb into the darkness of the cosmos forming a pathway that will illuminate ways forward in which darkness/blackness can be utilized as a site of creation for what comes next as we move through these times of collapse.

Barbara Holmes
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Saturday Integration Gathering

Join us for 30 minutes of time and space to integrate in affinity based spaces.

Rooted's team
Soundbath and Imaginal Storyboard

In this space intended for people of the African diaspora, we will integrate the experiences that came before. Having arrived in whatever state in which we find ourselves, we will take a bit of time in a warm pool of reflection. What do we know now that we only suspected before? What has shifted in our body-mind-heart? What cracks have formed that we want to explore further?

We will gather the bits through personal reflection as well as small and large group reflection. A portal for communing with ancestors, spirits, and the more-than-human kin will be opened in the deep waters of a soundbath. Finally, our time together will culminate with a communal storyboard activity around the emergent and the imaginal.

Exclusively for people of the African diaspora.

Shana Nunnelly & Oceana Sawyer
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Would you like to Donate to Support this Event and Receive the Collection?

This BiPoc led event was free and open to the public.  However, if you are able, we welcome donations that will go toward the labor and organization behind such events; paying our guest speakers, tech support, and assistants a fair living wage and one that honors their contributions.  

You will receive the video, audio, and transcript recordings to keep forever.

We suggest $25-50, but please pay what you can and we will share the recordings from the event.

Thank you for your support!