The Detroit Afrikan Funkestra, an open-air opera in three acts, was produced by the Detroit Afrikan Music Institution for the Detroit Design Festival. The Funkestra's first performance took place in the North End against the picturesque and unlikely backdrop of the Oakland Avenue Urban Farm. Amongst kale and hibiscus plants, twelve musicians representing a breadth of genres recounted an incomplete history of music in the city.


The scenography, much like the opera itself, is a playful smashup. Sampling a number of existing and disappeared performance stages from music venues in the neighborhood, the Funkestra set is a nostalgia-free reconfiguration calibrated to look both familiar and renewed. Using simple materials – plywood, house paint, glitter, and hardware – the stage is conceived as a subliminal supergraphic, hinting at a set of deeply-contextual, underexposed narratives grounded in the neighborhood's collective imaginary.

Detroit Afrikan Funkestra

Detroit, Michigan, 2016


Project Leads: Anya Sirota, Jean Louis Farges

Design Team:
Taylor Montgomery, Ian Donaldson


Production Team: Christopher Holder, Sam Okolita, Lindsey Karasik, Jon Watkins, Eric Howard



This project is made possible through a grant from the Knight Foundation. Additional support provided by the Detroit Design Festival and Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning.