Meet Dr. Ayoka Chenzira
NOTE: Listen to Dr. Chenzira’s December 27th interview with Ananda Leeke on Digital Sisterhood Radio. They discuss Spelman College’s Digital Moving Image Salon and Dr. Chenzira’s interactive art installation, Ordinary On Any Given Day.
1) Write a six-word memoir to describe yourself.
Creative, curious, globetrotter, loving, living tenaciously
2) Tell us about your blog.
Ordinary On Any Given Day is the online home for my latest work by the same title. In lieu of a blog, a key component of the site are the Changemaker video narratives used in Ordinary On Any Given Day. I filmed 17 interviews total, via Skype with known and unknown change makers. They include scholar/activist Angela Davis, Alison Bernstein of the Ford Foundation, Danica Kombol Managing Partner at Everywhere and Blogging While Brown/What About Our Daughters founder, Gina McCauley. This project was born out of a conversation with my daughter, who also serves as my producer, about what would the Facebook pages of iconic leaders such as Martin Luther King or Sojourner Truth look like? Better yet, their cell phones! Thinking about how our most respected leaders would interact with technology, transformed into Ordinary. During the interviews, I asked each, how they transformed from ordinary citizen into a pioneer for social change.
The project now exists as an online interactive installation named, Ordinary 2.0 which will debut publicly in the fall of 2012. Ordinary 2.0 carries forward the idea of being engaged with technology, not just around life events, such as, “I’m eating breakfast, I’m at the mall. I can’t find my cat,” but to highlight issues of social justice and the individuals carrying out expansive ideas about how to make the world a better place. 30 Days of Social Change is the social media campaign I’ve launched to locate these individuals all over the globe and also provide the foundation for an online community of change.
3) What is your definition of digital sisterhood?
The core of my definition for digital sisterhood lies in SISTERHOOD. Whether it is digital or analog, it is the wanting for other women’s health, and this is their health in the broadest sense, their physical, emotional and spiritual health–in their professional lives, the same things you want for your own health. We do this through information sharing and helping other women connect the dots. The digital universe merely helps us to support that fundamental linking. I think many of us work with the understanding that in many arenas women do not fare well. People who don’t think of themselves as feminists, they can just look at the data from various sectors of society, culture and see women are not doing well. Which makes the concept of sisterhood important in that women must hold hands and move each other forward, not just pay lip service to it.
4) What is your favorite 2011 digital sisterhood moment or experience?
My 2011 favorite sisterhood experience was when I was invited to show my interactive installation Ordinary On Any Given Day at the International Symposium on Electronic Art in Istanbul, Turkey. I took two women with me who helped to support the design and presentation of the project. It was quite grueling because we literally got of the plane from Atlanta to Istanbul and immediately went to work. Setting up and problem solving, it was wonderful, we were able to throw the ball to each other without the ball hitting anyone in the head. After the third day we were so exhausted, we rented a different hotel room in a plush boutique hotel. And we just laid in the bed and laughed and were silly and giggled out all of the stress we were experiencing around getting this particular installation up and running. There were a lot of the things we asked for that were not in place. At one point it got so bizarre the only thing we could do is like, be in a fabulous boutique hotel and laugh about all the digital technologies and how it works or has momentary hiccups.
5) The 2011 theme of Digital Sisterhood Month is ‘Celebrate the 4 Fs of Women’s Health: Feelings, Food, Fitness & Fierce Living.” How have you lived fiercely in 2011?
Sometimes people get really stuck or complacent in their own minds, and its easy to do that because modern living can be quite overwhelming so there is a part of my nature that always resists being complicit. This year, I did things like go to Thailand just to ride the elephants, defend my PhD thesis at Georgia Tech, and put together a new interactive installation. It was something I had never done this way before — just lying in bed thinking about how I wanted to do it, even though I didn’t know everything about doing it, plowing through and actualizing my own vision. These are three great examples for me. Also, taking longer motorcycle rides.
6) How do you stay positive and maintain peace of mind?
I have a very loving supporting family life. I have an extraordinary husband who helps to create an environment that is an extremely nurturing one for me. I have a daughter and a son-in-law who helped to support and help me think through a lot of ideas. So my family structure is a very nurturing one and that’s very helpful. And I sit quietly and rub my dog. It’s a three-year old white fluffy bichon and she lets me rub on her a lot.
7) What are your favorite healthy foods?
I’ve been conscious about food and how it’s processed and where its grown since I was a teenager. Many of us think there are certain foods that are naturally good for us, but periodically I think people should get their food allergies tested. As we move forward in life eating things for us a long time, sometimes they become not as good for you. So I am getting ready to have my food allergy test done, next week. In the mean time, my primary diet is vegetables and fish. I drink herbal teas, like jasmine or a tea called silver needle, which has a high level of antioxidants, and also dragon pearls for rest and sleep. But my husband does all the cooking in the house. We eat fresh fruits and vegetables every single day, he shops every single day, we don’t store food away. I think that helps to maintain a good healthy diet.
8) How do you stay fit?
I don’t do as much physical activity since I moved to Atlanta from New York City. New York City is much more of a walking culture. But I do enjoy walking a lot and live in a walking community in Atlanta. And I enjoy riding my motorcycle, which feels like exercise.
9) How are you planning to live fiercely in 2012?
Continue to travel to places I’ve never been and I am launching a new project I haven’t’ quite tackled before. I also got the go ahead to develop the work of an amazing writer, who many have read her books. I won’t say much more than that right now.
10) Where can we find you online?
Ordinary Web Site: http://ordinarydayacts.com
Ayomentary Web Site: http://ayomentary.com
Pitch Engine: www.pitchengine.com/ayomentary/artist-ayoka-chenzira-follows-up-ground-breaking-work-with-ordinary-20-and-30-days-of-social-change-challenge