Octavia Butler’s classic science-fiction novel Parable of the Sower sprouts artistic seedlings


Octavia Butler’s science fiction writing, in which Black heroines and heroes face and surmount catastrophic events, has inspired a generation of artists and writers, especially those drawn to Afrofuturist ideas. In one of her best known novels, Parable of the Sower, an empathetic young girl escapes climate disaster and societal collapse in California to establish a utopian community aimed at spreading humanity across the cosmos. The prophetic work was first published in October 1993 and its 30th anniversary is being marked by artists and arts organisations across the country.

This summer, as part of Lincoln Center’s Summer for the City programme, an operatic retelling of the story, written by performer Toshi Reagon and her music activist mother Bernice Johnson Reagon, will be produced in full for the first time in New York. The piece will be staged on two nights, 14 and 15 July, at the Wu Tsai Theater in David Geffen Hall. The project is being realised in collaboration with the city’s libraries, which will include the graphic novel version of the book on their summer reading lists for children.

And in Butler’s home state of California, the Brooklyn-based pseudonymous American Artist will continue his project Shaper of God, first shown at Redcat (the Roy and Edna Disney/Calarts Theater) last year, with a new iteration at the California African American Museum in January. The installation included drawings based on Bulter’s personal papers, now housed in the Huntington Library in San Marino, Pasadena, as well as a life-sized gated wall, like the one Lauren Olamina, the main character of Parable of the Sower, lives behind at the start of the novel.


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