So far, 2020 seems like a science fiction movie. A global pandemic affects our daily lives and prevents us from planning our future the way we want to. While COVID-19 is a contemporary global problem, racism is a structural problem that has been a burden to black people for centuries. Racism is rooted in our minds and societal structures.
In the beginning of 2020, the murder of George Floyd led to Black Lives Matter protests all over the world. As of now I wonder how we can ensure the survival of this movement and I think Afrofuturism might offer us a way. It might be fundamental to saving black lives and black culture. Injustices, such as racism, that are created by colonialism and white supremacy can be escaped with hope.
Afrofuturists make the most of their time while living in the present, which can inspire others to do the same. Therefore Afrofuturism creates hope. Afrofuturism is about reclaiming racial identity in a unique and inspiring way.
According to Janelle Monae ‘Afrofuturism is me, us… is black people seeing ourselves in the future’.
The term ‘Afrofuturism’ was originally defined by cultural critic Mark Derry in 1993, in an essay called ‘Black to the Future’. Yet, the idea has existed for much longer. Missy Elliot, Janet Jackson and Solange Knowles have explored the movement. The most famous contributor to the Afro futurism is musician and poet Sun Ra. He aims to understand and preach something different than theEuro-centric view that is being taught in school. He argues that it is important to think about whose reality you are living.
In the era of (social) media and technology we need to take into consideration how humans and their culture should be represented. Black people are systematically underrepresented in contemporary global media, which is currently subject to white domination. A study in 2014 showed that only eight of the top 100 highest-grossing films in the US had a non-white protagonist.Six of those eight were Will Smith. With Afrofuturism, a future abundant with arts, science and technology is being reimagined as seen through a black lens according to Ingrid LaFleur.
Steven Barnes teaches on Afrofuturism and argues that its necessity comes from science fiction’s history of excluding black people.
He stated: ‘You could have a movie where worlds collide and they build spaceships to save the world... and all the people on the spaceships are white’.
This is an interesting paradox, because how can a genre that imagines a future of infinite possibilities be seemingly unable to imagine a future where black people exist- or at least have any relevance? Another important contributor to Afrofuturism,Olivia Butler, states that there is freedom in imagination and that the power of science fiction is that there are no limits.
Commercial success has recently been soared by Afrofuturism with the release of the movie Black Panther, which broke several records. It tells the story of Wakanda, a country that is hidden from colonization. Its citizens, black people, are in charge of the most advanced technology on earth. This movie challenges the white dominance in the media and represents the power of black people and their culture.
Afrofuturism can be visualized through art. An example is Olalekan Jeyifous. He is a visual artist that produces imaginary cityscapes. He created a version of Brooklyn that is based on longstanding communities. He calls his work ‘implausible architecture’. His designs are inspired by Afrofuturism, eco-Futurism and Agro-Futurism.His world is filled with technologies such as rainwater harvesting, biofuels,cooperative farms and innovative transportation. He states: ‘Architecture is my medium, but I’m really a storyteller.’
Looking back at the past has been a panful experience because of the omnipresence of white supremacy and the traces of colonialism. That pain is present in the current society and can make dreaming about the future grueling.An artist that made the relationship between harm in the past, present and future less painful is Olalekan Abba Makama. He created ‘Artefacts from our future past’. With his work he aims to travel into the future to rediscover historical artefacts. He stated:’I travelled so far into the future I actually ended up in the past’.
Nettrice Gaskins creates Afrofuturistic portraits. Her work reimagines racial bias and anti-blackness through the liberatory imagination. ‘The idea is that we are not just being victimised, but that we are taking back some of the power by being creative…By creating our own alternate universes and alternate realities, but also our real realities. That is where the hope comes in.’
Afrofuturism is thus about hope, representation and therefore equality.It is about being in charge of your own imagination. It is about understanding and visualizing the power, strength and beauty of black culture and its future.Furthermore, the importance of human future lays in black future, for all future will not matter until black future does.
The comeback of Afrofuturism, ablack SciFi movement - BBC Reel
What is Afrofuturism? A Beginner's Guide -AfriTechNews
Afrofuturism and Black Identity inArt, Culture and Politics | Widewalls
Afrofuturism: Why black science fiction 'can'tbe ignored' - BBC News
Olalekan Jeyifous Is Imagining anAfrofuturist Brooklyn - Curbed