ReMixing History: Afrofuturism
Updated: Sep 20, 2017
Don't ignore the incredible world of Afrofuturism
by Afrofurist Artist Manzel Bowman
I absolutely loved this recent This American Life podcast titled, We are in the future. Maybe I was a bit sad that I missed Brooklyn's famous annual AfroPunk festival (I was traveling back from Ohio/Tennessee where I was working with Sacred Bodywork clients and preparing some future ReMembering journeys), but when I saw that the host of one of my favorite shows from National Public Radio, Ira Glass, had Neil Drumming (another talented NPR guy) lead a show on Afrofuturism, I was psyched, and I don't want you all to miss it. To paraphrase Drumming, in a world where its just so easy to see images of black folks as victims (and perpetuators) of violence, Afrofuturism uses the genre of science fiction, fantasy, and futurist literature to dare to imagine and to today create art and culture where black people not only survive but thrive in beauty. I don't want to give it away, but the show includes a super cool song, "The Deep" by clppng, a visit to the only black-owned comic book store in the East coast (by a lady, no less), and a fascinating discussion on how the past, the future and the present intersect. Plus, Azie Dungey shared an amazing story of her experience acting as a slave for a re-enactment in Virgina - her story made me look forward to her upcoming book, "How I survived the 18th Century." As one of the guests said, "we are our ancestors' future."
“We are our ancestors' future.”
Of course, there are a lot of other ways of exploring AfroFuturism beyond that podcast! I love futurist/sci fi author Olivia Butler, one of the Queens of Afrofuturism. I read The Parable of the Sower earlier this summer and can't recommend it highly enough, especially to folks concerned with climate change (and if you aren't concerned you aren't paying attention.) The website Notey has a cool 5 part animated primer on Afrofuturism, and a great blog about the man who coined the term, cultural critic Mark Dervy; and a regular newsletter on all things Afrofuturist-icness. As Clive Gabay explains in his post on Afrofuturism and Afropolitanism, the movement has its roots in some of the big band music of folks like Duke Ellington and moved into the more psychadellic work of Sun Ra (though he never himself used the term Afrofuturism, which was coined the year of his death). Today, new artists, musicians, writers, thinkers and creators are expanding and enriching this multi-stream, multi-varied space where past, present and future collide, are re-imagined and in various ways re-membered and, as they say, re-mixed. Sabine Quetant recommends this collection of emerging and remarkable artists to follow. Viewing these images is worthwhile - and took far more time than I had anticipated!
One of my personal favorites was Kami Olaf. Not only does his art and poetry explore amazing images designed to encourage creative thinking, but his Ottaway-based design firm creates prefabricated homes and, according to his website, "explores modular sustainable building solutions for affordable living."
What does this teach us about reMembering? Lots, of course. Especially about the extent to which the past, the present and the future are such deeply overlapping and intertwined categories.