Ayoka Chenzira, Ph.D.
Division Chair for Arts and Humanities
Founder and Director of the Digital Moving Image Salon
Ayoka Chenzira, artist/educator, is an award-winning, internationally acclaimed film and video artist, and is one of the first African Americans to teach film production in higher education. A pioneer in Black independent cinema, Chenzira is one of the first African-American women to write, produce and direct a 35mm feature film, "Alma’s Rainbow," one of Billboard Magazine’s top 40 home video rentals. She is also noted as the first African-American woman animator.
Chenzira has worked and lectured extensively on film throughout the United States, South America, and Europe; traversing the African continent collecting oral narratives from women, as well as training emerging filmmakers.
Chenzira received her degrees in film production and education from New York University and Columbia University/Teachers’ College. As professor of film at The City College of New York, she taught filmmaking to an international student body for nearly twenty years and co-created the MFA program in Media Arts Production in 1996. 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.
Recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including a Sony Innovator Award for her early work with converging film, video and computer animation; 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 (2003).
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 multimedia 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 creator and director of the Digital Moving Image Salon at Spelman College, she teaches a yearlong research and production course.
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, where she designed and taught workshops primarily for Zulu students at DIT. A recipient of the the 2013 Womenetics POW Award, Chenzira also received the HBCU Digest's "Female Faculty Member of the Year" award in 2014.
See the video about the DMIS founder on TEDxPeachtree.