Denise Onen

Denise Onen, a cultural practitioner and audio alchemist, channels the richness of her diverse experience into sonic artistry for film, documentaries, theatre, and performances. With unwavering dedication both in practice and academia, she has flourished as a composer, mixing engineer, recordist, and notably: sound designer.

Most recently, her skill shines through featured collaborative sonic installations and films at the likes the World Expression Forum (2023), National Arts Festival (2023, 2022), Sundance International Film Festival (2022), Biennale de Dakar (2022), and Un(Infecting) the City Public Arts Festival (2021).

Her contributions have garnered recognition, including the prestigious Best South African Short award at the Durban International Film Festival (2022), Best Southern African Documentary at Cairo International Film Festival (2021) and she was a shortlisted nominee for the 2022 International Oram Award for feminine-bodied innovators in sound, music, and associated technology.

Denise Onen was selected as part of “Oscillations”, a project by Akademie der Künste (Berlin) Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape (Cape Town) and Deutschlandfunk Kultur / Klangkunst (Berlin). She was in Berlin in October and November 2023 with a scholarship from the DAAD Arts and Media Program.


1. I was born premature, weighed 1kg

2. In Acholi tradition, we’re given birth-based surnames. Mine is Lapwoch – Thankful

3. We need collective healing

1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?

Interactions. The early influence of my older siblings

2. How and when did you get into making music?

Music has always played in my head. As technology evolves so do the ways to make it
tangible. My first piano lesson was in May 2006

3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?

Vulnicura Live – Björk
Emily’s De-Evolution – Esperanza Spalding
Soul Candi 5 CD 2
Piano Stories II – Joe Hisaishi
The ArchAndroid – Janelle Monae

4. What do you associate with Berlin?

Expansive expression, simultaneous suppression

5. What’s your favourite place in your town?

Großer Tiergarten

6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?

Decolonial trauma-informed somatic therapy

7. What was the last record/music you bought or listen?

I was gifted Vox Cape Town’s of Barrels and Blossoms when commissioned by them.

8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?

Friends, I love collaborative experiments.

9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?

Divisible Invisible with Dumama, 2021
Blue Light Underground Experiment set with Sold Ash aka Ruan Vos, 2024

10. How important is technology to your creative process?

Crucial. The process begins outside technology, sonic visions actualised through technology

Please tell us what we can expect from your work for the Oscillations. Cape Town – Berlin Festival?

Commentary on bureaucracy and borders. Estranged familiarity, sounds of Berlin reconstructed with sounds of Cape Town. A sonic somatic experience of sorts, with the interactive system creating perceptive play between sound, the body and space.