Afrofuturism

*if it's underlined, there's a link*

The term Afrofuturism was, strangely enough, coined by white cultural critic Mark Dery. In 1993, he interviewed several prominent African-American voices and created a 44-page essay titled "Black to the Future."

Here's how Dery defined the philosophy:

"Speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of twentieth-century technoculture—and, more generally, African-American signification that appropriates images of technology and a prosthetically enhanced future—might, for want of a better term, be called 'Afro-futurism.'"

The philosophy and aesthetic has grown through time, and therefore can be defined differently. Author Alondra Nelson broadly describes Afrofuturism as: "African-American voices with other stories to tell about culture, technology, and things to come."

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It's important to note that before Dery and Nelson spoke about Afrofuturism in retrospect, the aesthetic already existed in many forms. George Clinton and his collective, Parliament-Funkadelic (& Parlet female spin-off), were making all kinds of Afrofuturist music that merged science fiction, psychedelia, fashion, and funk. Octavia Butler, a science fiction writer, was writing from the 70s to the early 2000s. Some of Basquiat's work, as well as his general influence on black art, is considered Afrofuturist.

Afrofuturism is often paired with references to technoculture, sci-fi, Egypt, aliens, time travel, cyberspace, etc... Sun Ra, legendary jazz composer and bandleader, embodied this type of aesthetic. There are also modern approaches that embody alternative future styles and incorporate multiple cultures within the African Diaspora.

 

Some aesthetics simply call for a black future where white people do exist, a black future that is free from its relation to whiteness. Some relate to a 'future' that is more tied to history and reality, placing contemporary social issues in unexpected future worlds. As seen in Octavia Butler's work, Afrofuturist art can take place in futures that bear aspects of the American history we know to be true.

 

What if the Hayti community lived on? What if America's timeline was different? What possibilities can you imagine?

Learn about Afrofuturism through the artists that practice it. Check out the embedded links and see all the various Afrofuturist aesthetics.

There all all kinds of approaches, some rejecting traditional representations of Afrofuturism (see the Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto).

Ytasha Womack is an author, filmmaker, and leading expert on Afrofuturism. Here, she explains the vastness of contemporary Afrofuturism — "an artistic aesthetic and method of self-liberation."

Here's some Sun Ra // Chad VanGaalen — a recently released animation.

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"The premise of Black Panther, as with most Afrofuturist art, goes against the grain of history itself – a violent chronology that stripped African cultures of resources and opportunities, and stripped African peoples of their languages and identities when they were enslaved in America and elsewhere. Few modern African-Americans know their exact origins, and African nations are rarely portrayed in anything resembling positive light in Western media despite their advancements."

"Within the fiction of Black Panther, Wakanda is a nation untouched by Western influence at any point in history, representing the peoples of postcolonial Africa had they been allowed to exist and advance on their own terms."

A brief introduction to Octavia Butler and an interview from 2000.

Useful links:

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