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Spelman College Faculty Stories

Faculty Stories

Spelman's Ayoka Chenzira to Direct Episode of "Queen Sugar"

June 2018

Ayoka ChenziraAyoka Chenzira, Ph.D., division chair for the arts, chair of the Department of Art & Visual Culture and professor, joins an impressive list of  first-time television directors who will complete the season three all-female directorial line-up of “Queen Sugar,” the critically acclaimed OWN drama series from Academy award-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay. This effort continues the creative initiative established in the show’s first season by series creator and executive producer DuVernay to hire all female directorial teams. The series, which has employed 25 female directors to date, airs Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET/PT on OWN.

In addition to Dr. Chenzira, other directors for the show include Nijla Mu’min, Christina Choe, and Rachel Raimist, along with the return of “Queen Sugar” show runner Kat Candler. These directors join the previously announced line-up including “Queen Sugar” producing director DeMane Davis, Patricia Cardoso, Shaz Bennett, Maria Govan and Lauren Wolkstein.

An award-winning artist and recognized pioneer in Black independent cinema, Dr. Chezira is a graduate of New York University (B.F.A. Film), Columbia University/Teachers College (M.A. Education) and is the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in digital media from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Her distinctive body of work spans fiction, documentary, animation, performance, experimental narratives, and interactive cinema. Her film work includes “Alma’s Rainbow,” one of the first 35mm independent films by an African-American woman, along with “Hair Piece: a film for nappyheaded people,” “Zajotaand the Boogie Spirit,” “My Own TV” and HERadventure.” “Queen Sugar” marks her directorial debut for television.

In recent years, the Whitney Museum of American Art exhibited her animated film "Hair Piece: a Film for Nappyheaded People" as part of its celebration for the opening of their new building.

Dr. Chenzira was also invited to show her early films at Lincoln Center as part of a celebration of Black filmmakers titled "Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968 – 1986."  She also directed the interactive stage play,"Funnel Cake Flowers & the Urban Chameleons" at the Atlanta Black Theater Festival followed by a sold out off Broadway showing on Theater Row. The play featured live performance, video, dance, and real-time tweeting.