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Duaba Unenra uses his art to imagine a better world

Updated: Apr 17

Duaba Unenra calls himself a “culture smith” because he studies his own ancestral traditions and cultural practices and explores new ways to apply them to this current moment..

“There’s a western colonial idea of what culture is, this thing that is static that doesn't change. As I started to appreciate my own heritage and culture more, I realized, none of the things that exist from the African continent in people's museums are artifacts, they’re technology because we actually use these as tools to communicate across different dimensions to ancestors, to the spiritual entities that we talk to. We used it to work with the land, and we made them look beautiful.”

In his 2021 speculative fiction essay titled How We Stayed Free: Visions of a Future without Plantations, Prisons, Pipelines, and Killer Peace Officers, Duaba explores abolition, mutual aid and solidarity, as well as dependency on systems of oppression.

His speculative fiction explores those different strategies to see what it would look like if society fully committed to an abolitionist strategy and its unfolding.

“We don't need to go far into the future to see how messed up things are, and what could be done differently. I have a lot of respect for the genre, because it gives you a way to safely talk about the icebergs that you see the ship of your society about to crash into, and hopefully give people the tools that they need to get off the ship, steer in another direction or survive the crash.”

Currently, Duaba is working on a project called R.E.P. (Relationships Evolving Possibilities). It asks the question, ‘What if communities had their own emergency response systems? What would it be like?’

Springboard for the Arts started the Creative Economy Fellowship to support artists who make and share cultural tools, with the belief that interconnected communities of artists create greater impact, and more substantial, system-wide change.

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