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Omi  osun  joni  l.  jones 

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“It is important that we push beyond the established political and intellectual approaches to the world’s most intractable problems, and move toward possibilities that have been given less opportunity to support substantive transformation.  These possibilities include the structures of theatrical jazz—improvisation, ensemble building, virtuosity, and joy.” 

Photo Credit: Wura-Natasha Ogunji

Omi OSun Joni L. Jones (she/her) is an artist/scholar/facilitator, and Professor Emerita of the African and African Diaspora Studies Department at the University of Texas at Austin. Omi is dedicated to innovating new artistic and scholarly strategies for stimulating healthy communities toward Freedom and Joy.

“When we foreground these strategies, we allow ourselves to be present with our vulnerability, to take risks, to innovate, and to live more fully in the world as the selves we want to be.”

Omi brought this focus to her work as Artist-in-Residence with Thousand Currents, The NoVo Foundation, The Federal University of Oye Ekiti (Nigeria), and as the founder of The Austin Project (2002-2011)—a collective of women of color artists, activists, scholars and allies who use art for re-imagining societies.  She has developed art as social change workshops for a range of organizations including The Ford Foundation, allgo—a Texas statewide queer people of color organization, Educafro (Brazil), The Forum on Governance and Democracy (Nigeria), and Engaged Donors for Social Equity (EDGE).  As a performing artist, her original works include sista docta, a solo critique of academic life, and the ethnographic performance installation Searching for Ọ̀ṣun.

“Doing this individual work is the foundation for strong communities, neighborhoods, and gathering places.”

Omi’s scholarship focuses on performance ethnography, theatrical jazz, Yoruba-based aesthetics, Black Feminisms, and activist theatre.  Her scholarship appears in several publications including The Drama ReviewTheatre JournalObsidiansolo/black/woman (eds. E. Patrick Johnson and Ramón Rivera Servera), Tarell Alvin McCraney:  Theatre, Performance, and Collaboration (eds. Sharrell Luckett, David Roman, Isaiah Wooden). 

Omi is a co-editor with Lisa L. Moore and Sharon Bridgforth of Experiments in a Jazz Aesthetic: Art, Activism, Academia, and the Austin Project (University of Texas Press, 2010), and author of a collaborative  ethnography, Theatrical Jazz: Performance, Àṣẹ, and the Power of the Present Moment (Ohio State University Press, 2015) that documents the development of jazz-inflected performance.


Photo Credit: Sharon Bridgforth

“I offer these strategies to others for individual expansion and community power.” 

During her 28-year tenure at UT/Austin, Omi established the Performing Blackness Series (now named in her honor), curated The ÌSÈSÈ Gallery, and began a Yoruba Studies Program.  Omi is currently completing a collection of performance short stories— Sittin’ in a Saucer — about a 9-year-old Black girl growing up in the suburbs of Chicago in the late 1950s.  As an advancement toward Black Freedom, Omi has launched The Diaspora Project—a movement to expose internalized anti-Blackness and promote healing transnational Black relationships through artmaking.