I create; therefore, I am.
Ayodele Nzinga is a multi-talented West Coast-based art visionary, who in the tradition of the Black Arts Continuum, uses performance as a method of inter-intra-group communication. Nzinga, also known as “The WordSlanger” has worked with some of the most talented performers in the Bay Area in various capacities to bring life to a long list of creative endeavors.
She is the original Artistic Director of Recovery Theater, and it’s cult classic Marvin X’s “One Day in the Life,” billed as the longest running African American Theater Production in North America.
Nzinga is the creative driving force of The Lower Bottom Playaz, Oakland’s premiere North American African Theater Company. She was the founding director of The Sister Thea Bowman Memorial Theater, which was built to facilitate Nzinga’s desire to use theater as a form of engagement for the community of West Oakland. Nzinga’s troupe served as the troupe in residence from 2000 until the theater went dark in 2013.
In 2010, Nzinga committed The Lower Bottom Playaz, Inc to the chronological production of The American Century Cycle by August Wilson. In 2013 when The Sister Thea went dark; Nzinga staged Fences at The African American Museum and Library at Oakland, becoming the only director to stage a full-length play at the historic museum.
In 2014, Nzinga and the Playaz took residence at The Flight Deck in uptown Oakland where they continued their historic march through Wilson’s Century Cycle. In 2015, Nzinga and The Playaz became the first director and troupe anywhere in the known world to formally stage the entire Century Cycle in chronological order of the decades presented in the massive work spanning the 20th Century in North America. Nzinga continues to focus her artistic practice on underserved audiences in West Oakland CA. as a way of engaging in conversations that affect the thriving of marginalized spaces everywhere.
A bright and consistent energy on the cutting edge of the East Bay cultural arts scene Nzinga’s Lower Bottom Playaz sustain themselves by holding annual auditions for new members. The troupe has been a launching pad for artistic careers and has encouraged members to pursue degrees in the arts.
Nzinga nurtures future performers with her innovative Summer Theater Day Camp a summer program that offers free artistic training and “first” performance opportunities to local youth from underserved areas. Nzinga also conducts a series of interactive arts workshops that are popular on high school and college campuses throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
In 2016 Nzinga founded, BAMBD, CDC (Black Arts Movement Business District Community Development Corporation), a 501c3 dedicated to enlivening the Black Arts District Business, (BAMBD) declared by City Resolution in 2016.
Nzinga was inducted into the Alameda Women’s Hall of Fame in 2017, and she was awarded the Helen Crocker Russell Award for Leadership in the Bay Area by The San Francisco Foundation. She was recognized by Theater Bay Area as one of the 40 faces that have changed the theater landscape in the Bay Area.
Multifaceted Nzinga, acts, directs, writes, lectures, conducts workshops, teaches acting and writing privately, and performs as a featured spoken word artist in Northern CA. She is the CEO of We Inhale Production and Publishing an independent micro-publishing and production company in West Oakland CA. She has served as the Literary Artist-in-Residence and Resident Dramaturge for the Prescott-Joseph Center for Community Enhancement. She has consulted, served residencies, and created programming for various art concerns and schools including The University of California at Berkeley, Opera Piccola, Asa Academy, St. Martin De Porres School, The Beacon Outlet, The Leo Center, and A.L.I.C.E. now known as Black Swan.
Awards, Recognition, Support
The San Francisco Foundation
Serpent Source Grantee
California Playwrights Association
Theater Bay Area
City of Oakland Cultural Arts Department
Alameda County Cultural Arts
San Francisco Foundation
New College Writers
The East Bay Foundation
The Mayors Office of Oakland CA
National Endowment for the Arts
Prescott-Joseph Center for Community Enhancement
Oakland Cultural Funding
East Bay Community Foundation, Mc Pherson Fund
Oakland Public Library; Photos & Text
For Brothers Only- Documentary, We Inhale
Call the Village-Docu-Drama, Black Apes Media
Throw the rope- Music Video, 393 Films
We dying down here- Music Video, Black Apes Media
Freedom- Music Video, Black Apes Media
Search for the Everlasting Cocoanut Tree — 393 Film
Warrior Art — 393 Film
Protection Shields- 393 Film
So Beautiful- 393 Film
Tent City- 393 Film
Songo, The Story of a King- 393- Film
- Don’t Call Me – J. Definitely
- Bigger Picture- Inspire
- Hood Affair- Playa Righteous
- Look n the Glass-Playa Righteous
- WordznBulletz-We Inhale
- Pocket Full of Cowries- Wolf Hawk Jaguar
- Prosperity Movement – Wolf Hawk Jaguar
- Water — Oshunfemi Njeri
- Lower Bottom Playaz Hood Mix- Compilation-We Inhale
- The SorrowLand Rebellion-Black Apes Music
14th Hills Literary Journal
Inglis House Anthology
Journal of African American Poetry
ChickenBones, A Journal
San Francisco Bay View
International Conference Of Arts & Humanities
Header photo by Shaka Jamal Redmond/Olu 8