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Afrofuturism Then and Now

A Panel Discussion with India Cooke, Mandjou Kone, Emmanuel Etolo, Charles Tolliver, Nelson Harrison, and Rahman Jamaal
Collage: India Cooke, Emmanuelle Etolo, Mandjou Koné, Nelson Harris, Rahman Jamaal, Charles Tolliver
Thursday, October 14, 2021 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
online event
Presented by: 
Institute of the Arts and Sciences

A panel of musicians, artists, and dancers working in the Afrofuturist tradition discuss their creative endeavors towards a better future. Artists India Cooke, Mandjou Kone, Emmanuel Etolo, Charles Tolliver, Nelson Harrison, and Rahman Jamaal, with moderator Aaron Mulenga.

First conceptualized in the 1950s by cosmic philosopher and jazz giant Sun Ra, Afrofuturism is a wide-ranging social, political, and artistic movement intent on imagining a world where African-descended peoples and cultures can live and flourish.

This event is collaboratively produced with UC Santa Cruz professors Karlton Hester of the Music Department and Gerald Casel of the Performance, Play, and Design Department.

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Free and open to the public
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India Cooke is a Grammy-nominated, national and internationally renowned violinist, composer, and educator. She plays a range of genres from improv, jazz, to classical. Cooke has performed with Pharaoh Sanders, Peter Kowald, Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, Pauline Oliveros, George Lewis, Joelle Leandre, Amiri Baraka and many others. She has also been a featured soloist with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. India has performed in Bay Area symphony and opera orchestras, chamber ensembles, and broadway shows. As one of California’s most respected contract artists, she has performed with the Louie Bellson Orchestra, Sarah Vaughn, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and many others. India has recorded sessions for Atlantic, Fantasy, and Stax records. As a featured recording artist she can be heard on Leo Records with Sun Ra and his Arkestra, Black Saint records What We Live Fo(u)r, Hat Music’s Nomadic Winds, Plainisphares’ African Roots of Jazz, and Sparkling Beatnik Records The Circle Trio: Live at the Meridian. She recorded and released to critical acclaim, her Grammy nominated debut CD as a leader, "Music and Arts’ India Cooke: Redhanded." India is currently on Mills College Music Department Faculty, Ensemble Directors & Lesson Instructors roster, and teaches at her private studio, India’s Music Room.

Mandjou Koné is a dancer and dance educator. Born into the Koné family, a Griot family in West Africa, between Burkina Faso and Mali, renowned for their tradition of recording events and passing history down generations, she was invited to the United States to help translate a documentary about the last 40 years of her family’s musical tradition and history, titled “Great Great Great Grandparents’ Music,” produced by Taale Laafe Rossellini. She has danced and performed with the National Ballet of Burkina Faso and toured with her brother’s group, Surutukunu. She has been a dance teacher throughout the United States for the past 11 years and is currently a dance lecturer at UC Santa Cruz. She was honored with the Calabash Award in Santa Cruz in 2003.

Emmanuel Etolo is the president of the board of directors of the Plastic Arts in the Ministry of Art and Culture in Cameroon. His artworks are realized from the bark of the Obom tree, and he has had several exhibitions in San Francisco, the West Indies, and France.

Charles Tolliver is a jazz trumpeter, composer, and co-founder of Strata East Records, based in New York City. Born in Jacksonville, FL, Tolliver made his musical recording debut with saxophone giant Jackie McLean in 1964 with Blue Note Records and has performed and/or recorded with renowned artists such as Roy Haynes, Hank Mobley, Willie Bobo, and The Gerald Wilson Orchestra. He has been awarded the Downbeat Critic’s Choice for best Trumpet and Best Large Ensemble of the Year 2007 by The Jazz Journalists Association with his group MUSIC INC. Tolliver is noted for perfecting his individual and distinctive sound of tradition and improv in his music, setting him apart from other trumpet players. His most recent big band CD, “Emperor March,” was recorded live at the Blue Note in New York City and was released in 2009.

Nelson Harrison, Ph.D., is an accomplished musician, trombonist, jazz historian, and Pittsburgh Jazz leader. Harrison has played with numerous legendary musicians such as trombonist of the Count Basie Orchestra, Kenny Clarke, Billy Eckstine, and recorded with Walt Harper and Nathan Davis. He has received a Ph. D. in clinical psychology  is currently active with The Blues Orphans, Wee Jams, and his groups The Work According to Bop, Jazz ‘N Jive, Dr. Jazz and the Salty Dawgs, Blue to the Bone, and Nelson Harrison and Associates. He is cited in the Marquis publication, Who’s Who in the East (1979), and has received the 2008 Legacy Arts Project Keepers of the Flame Award, the 2008 Build the Hill Award, the 2008 MCG Jazz Pittsburgh Legends of Jazz Award, African American Council on the Arts Rob Penny Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2009 Jazz Journalists Association (JJA), and the 2015 Jazz Heroes Award, among many others.

Rahman Jamaal is an emcee and educator from the Bay Area, founder of Rap Force Academy, and executive director of Hip Hop Congress. He began acting in theater productions and playing music at the age of 6 years old, studying and performing for American Conservatory Theatre (A.C.T.) before his starring film debut as Flip in "The Beat,” which featured at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. His affiliation with Hip Hop Congress took him across the nation as a performing artist, where he began working on a cultural education initiative using rap as a teaching tool in the community, schools, juvenile halls, and non-profit organizations. In 2014, he won the prestigious Lennon Award in the international John Lennon Songwriting Contest for his song "This Isn't Art", also featured in "The Beat".

Aaron Mulenga is a Visual Studies Ph.D. student at the University California, Santa Cruz, and research assistant at the Institute of the Arts and Sciences. His area of study includes contemporary art of Africa, post-colonial theory and Africa studies. Mulenga is a multi-disciplined artist with a keen interest in sculptural forms and installation. He recently took part in the inaugural Stellenbosch Triennale (2020) held in South Africa entitled: “Tomorrow There Will be More of Us.” Mulenga’s art practice is part of his research process for his Ph.D.  Mulenga holds a B.F.A. from the University of Cape Town and an M.F.A from Rhodes University.