Ayoka Chenzira Biography

Ayoka Chenzira is an artist/educator, who was trained in dance, painting, still photography, music, film and video. According to Spelman College: Centers of Distinction, "she received degrees from New York University, a B.F.A. in Film Production and Columbia University/Teacher's College, M.A. in Education," (2004). At the start of her career she was originally a dancer and painter and at the young age of seventeen, she started making short films. After attending college she worked as a film editor, director and writer. She did documentaries and animated films, but she had her heart set on a making feature film. Chenzira's first full-length film was Ya So Dey So and she was determined not to make it her last, ( http://find.galegroup.com/itx/retrieve.do?contentSet=IAC-Documents&resultListType=RE...).

She went on to teach filmmaking at The City College of New York to an international student body for nearly twenty years, and she co-created the M.F.A. program in Media Arts Production in 1996, which was the first graduate program of its kind at a public institution that houses state-of-the-art production and post-production equipment. Many of her films are in permanent collections including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, some of which have been translated into French and Japanese, ( http://www.spelman.edu/about_us/distinction/womenscenter/chenzira.shtml)."Chenzira is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including a Sony Innovator Award for her early work with converging film, video and computer animation and also the Black Women's Film Preservation Society in Atlanta's Trailblazer Award in 2002. She became the first African American professor to receive a Distinguished Educator Award from Apple Computer for her work with storytelling and digital technology in 2003," ( http://www.spelman.edu/about_us/distinction/womenscenter/chenzira.shtml). Chenzira was invited to serve as the first William and Camille Cosby Endowed Professor in the Arts at Spelman College in 2001, producing a wildly successful multi-media stage version of her screenplay, Flying Over Purgatory (starring legendary actress Ruby Dee and featuring a South African cast), which was featured on CNN Headlines/CNN Inside Africa. As the creator and director of the Digital Moving Image Salon (DMIS) at Spelman College, she teaches a year long research and production course, (http://www.spelman.edu/about_us/distinction/womenscenter/chenzira.shtml).

In 2003, Chenzira created and served as co-director with M. Bahati Kuumba of Oral Narratives and Digital Technology, a joint venture between Spelman College and the Durban Institute of Technology (DIT), where she designed and taught workshops primarily for Zulu students at DIT. Chenzira is considered to be the first African-American woman animator and she is one of the first African-American women to write, produce and direct a 35mm feature film, Alma's Rainbow, listed in Billboard Magazine as one of the top home video rentals (May 1998).

"Her film, Hair Piece: a film for nappy-headed people, was voted one of the top fifty films to assist educators with discussions of race. In addition to her work as an artist, Chenzira is the Chair of the Department of Media & Communication Arts at The City College of New York where she oversees programs in advertising/public relations, journalism, and film & video", http://www.wmm.com/filmcatalog/makers/fm113.shtml (2005). Ayoka Chenzira is truly an artist to follow. Her work is very profound and innovating for all. She is definitely some one to look up to and she is surely admired by many for her great work.

--Jennifer Rhoden, 2006.

Ayoka Chenzira