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Afrofuturism is a cultural aesthetic, philosophy of science, and philosophy of history that explores the developing intersection of African Diaspora culture with technology. It was coined by Mark Dery in 1993 [1] and explored in the late 1990s through conversations led by Alondra Nelson. [2] Afrofuturism addresses themes and concerns of the African diaspora through technoculture and science fiction, encompassing a range of media and artists with a shared interest in envisioning black futures that stem from Afrodiasporic experiences. [3]

Alondra Nelson, an American writer and academic, is President of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC). An award-winning social scientist, she is also professor of sociology at Columbia University in the City of New York where, prior to her role at the SSRC, she served as the inaugural Dean of Social Science, as well as Director of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality.

The African diaspora consists of the worldwide collection of communities descended from native Africans or Africa's peoples, predominantly in the Americas. Historically, ethnographers, historians, politicians and writers have used the term particularly to refer to the descendants of the West and Central Africans who were enslaved and shipped to the Americas via the Atlantic slave trade between the 16th and 19th centuries, with their largest populations in Brazil, the United States and Haiti. Some scholars identify "four circulatory phases" of this migration out of Africa. Prior to the Atlantic slave trade, Arab traders took even more slaves from other parts of Africa, selling them to markets in North Africa and the Middle East.

Technoculture is a neologism that is not in standard dictionaries but that has some popularity in academia, popularized by editors Constance Penley and Andrew Ross in a book of essays bearing that title. It refers to the interactions between, and politics of, technology and culture.


Seminal Afrofuturistic works include the novels of Samuel R. Delany and Octavia Butler; the canvases of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Angelbert Metoyer, and the photography of Renée Cox; the explicitly extraterrestrial mythoi of Parliament-Funkadelic, the Jonzun Crew, Warp 9, Deltron 3030, and Sun Ra; and the Marvel Comics superhero Black Panther. [4] [5] [6]

Samuel R. Delany American author, professor and literary critic

Samuel Ray Delany Jr., Chip Delany to his friends, is an American author and literary critic. His work includes fiction, memoir, criticism and essays on sexuality and society.

Jean-Michel Basquiat American Artist

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent. Basquiat first achieved fame as part of SAMO, an informal graffiti duo who wrote enigmatic epigrams in the cultural hotbed of the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the late 1970s, where hip hop, punk, and street art cultures coalesced. By the 1980s, his neo-expressionist paintings were being exhibited in galleries and museums internationally. The Whitney Museum of American Art held a retrospective of his art in 1992.

Angelbert Metoyer is an American visual artist on the forefront of afrofuturism. Metoyer began his artistic career through Rick Lowe's Project Row Houses in Houston, Texas and held his first solo exhibition there in 1994. He subsequently moved to Atlanta to study drawing and painting at the Atlanta College of Art. Although a bit of a nomad having lived in various parts of the world, Metoyer currently lives with his wife and son in Houston and Rotterdam.


Mid-late 20th century development

Despite Afrofuturism being coined in 1993, scholars tend to agree that Afrofuturistic music, art and text became more common and widespread in the late 1950s. The Afrofuturist approach to music was first propounded by Sun Ra. Born in Alabama, Sun Ra's music coalesced in Chicago in the mid-1950s, when with the Arkestra he began recording music that drew from hard bop and modal sources, creating a new synthesis that used Afrocentric and space-themed titles to reflect Ra's linkage of ancient African culture, specifically Egypt, and the cutting edge of the Space Age.

Sun Ra American jazz composer and bandleader

Le Sony'r Ra, better known as Sun Ra, was an American jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, and poet known for his experimental music, "cosmic" philosophy, prolific output, and theatrical performances. For much of his career, Ra led "The Arkestra", an ensemble with an ever-changing name and flexible line-up.

Hard bop is a subgenre of jazz that is an extension of bebop music. Journalists and record companies began using the term in the mid-1950s to describe a new current within jazz which incorporated influences from rhythm and blues, gospel music, and blues, especially in saxophone and piano playing.

Afrocentrism African ethnocentrism

Afrocentrism is an approach to the study of world history that focuses on the history of people of recent African descent. It is in some respects a response to global (Eurocentric) attitudes about African people and their historical contributions; it seeks to correct what it sees as mistakes and ideas perpetuated by the racist philosophical underpinnings of western academic disciplines as they developed during and since Europe's Early Renaissance as justifying rationales for the enslavement of other peoples, in order to enable more accurate accounts of not only African but all people's contributions to world history. Afrocentricity deals primarily with self-determination and African agency and is a Pan-African point of view for the study of culture, philosophy, and history.

For many years, Ra and his bandmates lived, worked and performed in Philadelphia while touring festivals worldwide. Ra's film Space Is the Place shows The Arkestra in Oakland in the mid-1970s in full space regalia, replete with science-fiction imagery as well as other comedic and musical material. As of 2018, the band was still composing and performing, under the leadership of Marshall Allen.

<i>Space Is the Place</i> 1974 film

Space Is the Place is an 85-minute Afrofuturist science fiction film made in 1972 and released in 1974. It was directed by John Coney, written by Sun Ra and Joshua Smith, and features Sun Ra and his Arkestra. A soundtrack was released on Evidence Records.

Marshall Allen American musician

Marshall Belford Allen is an American free jazz and avant-garde jazz alto saxophone player. He also performs on flute, oboe, piccolo, and EVI.

Afrofuturist ideas were taken up in 1975 by George Clinton and his bands Parliament and Funkadelic with his magnum opus Mothership Connection and the subsequent The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein , P-Funk Earth Tour, Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome , and Motor Booty Affair . In the thematic underpinnings to P-Funk mythology ("pure cloned funk"), Clinton in his alter ego Starchild spoke of "certified Afronauts, capable of funkitizing galaxies".

George Clinton (musician) American singer, songwriter, bandleader, and music producer

George Edward Clinton is an American singer, songwriter, bandleader, and record producer. His Parliament-Funkadelic collective developed an influential and eclectic form of Funk music during the 1970s that drew on science-fiction, outlandish fashion, psychedelic culture, and surreal humor. He launched a solo career with the 1982 album Computer Games, and would go on to influence 1990s hip-hop and G-funk. He is regarded, along with James Brown and Sly Stone, as one of the foremost innovators of funk music. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, alongside 15 other members of Parliament-Funkadelic. In 2019, he and Parliament-Funkadelic will be given Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards.

Parliament (band) American funk band most prominent during the 1970s

Parliament is a funk band formed in the late 1960s by George Clinton as part of his Parliament-Funkadelic collective. Less rock-oriented than its sister act Funkadelic, Parliament drew on science-fiction and outlandish performances in their work. The band scored a number of Top 10 hits, including the million-selling 1975 single "Give Up the Funk ," and Top 40 albums such as Mothership Connection (1975).

Funkadelic was an American band that was most prominent during the 1970s. The band and its sister act Parliament, both led by George Clinton, pioneered the funk music culture of that decade. Relative to its sister act, Funkadelic pursued a heavier, psychedelic rock-oriented sound.

Other musicians typically regarded as working in or greatly influenced by the Afrofuturist tradition include reggae producers Lee "Scratch" Perry and Scientist, hip-hop artists Afrika Bambaataa and Tricky, electronic musicians Larry Heard, A Guy Called Gerald, Juan Atkins, Jeff Mills, [7] Newcleus [8] and Lotti Golden & Richard Scher, electro hip hop producer/writers of Warp 9's "Light Years Away", a sci-fi tale of ancient alien visitation, described as a "cornerstone of early 80's beatbox afrofuturism". [9]

Lee "Scratch" Perry Jamaican reggae producer

Lee "Scratch" Perry OD is a Jamaican music producer and inventor noted for his innovative studio techniques and production style. Perry was a pioneer in the 1970s development of dub music with his early adoption of remixing and studio effects to create new instrumental or vocal versions of existing reggae tracks. He has worked with and produced for a wide variety of artists, including Bob Marley and the Wailers, Junior Murvin, the Congos, Max Romeo, Adrian Sherwood, the Beastie Boys, Ari Up, The Clash, The Orb and many others.

Hopeton Overton Brown is a recording engineer and producer who rose to fame in the 1980s mixing dub music as "Scientist". A protégé of King Tubby, Scientist's contemporaries include several figures who, working at King Tubby's studio, had helped pioneer the genre in the 1970s: Ruddock, Bunny Lee, Philip Smart, Pat Kelly and Prince Jammy.

Afrika Bambaataa American DJ, record producer and activist

Afrika Bambaataa is an American disc jockey, singer, songwriter and producer from the South Bronx, New York. He is notable for releasing a series of genre-defining electro tracks in the 1980s that influenced the development of hip hop culture. Afrika Bambaataa is one of the originators of breakbeat DJing and is respectfully known as "The Godfather" and "Amen Ra of Hip Hop Kulture", as well as the father of electro-funk. Through his co-opting of the street gang the Black Spades into the music and culture-oriented Universal Zulu Nation, he has helped spread hip hop culture throughout the world. On May 6, 2016, Bambaataa left his position as head of The Zulu Nation due to multiple child sexual abuse allegations dating as far back as the 1970s.

Cultural criticism in the 1990s

In the early 1990s, a number of cultural critics, notably Mark Dery in his 1993 essay "Black to the Future," [10] began to write about the features they saw as common in African-American science fiction, music, and art. Dery dubbed this phenomenon "Afrofuturism". [11] According to cultural critic Kodwo Eshun, British journalist Mark Sinker was theorizing a form of Afrofuturism in the pages of The Wire , a British music magazine, as early as 1992. [12]

Afrofuturist ideas have further been expanded by scholars like Alondra Nelson, Greg Tate, Tricia Rose, Kodwo Eshun, and others. [3] In an interview, Alondra Nelson explained Afrofuturism as a way of looking at the subject position of black people which covers themes of alienation and aspirations for a utopic future. The idea of "alien" or "other" is a theme often explored. [13] Additionally, Nelson notes that discussions around race, access, and technology often bolster uncritical claims about a so-called "digital divide". [14] The digital divide overemphasizes the association of racial and economic inequality with limited access to technology. This association then begins to construct blackness "as always oppositional to technologically driven chronicles of progress". [14] As a critique of the neo-critical argument that the future's history-less identities will end burdensome stigma, Afrofuturism holds that history should remain a part of identity, particularly in terms of race. [14]

21st century

A new generation of recording artists have embraced Afrofuturism into their music and fashion, including Solange, Rihanna, and Beyoncé. This tradition continues from artists such as Erykah Badu, Missy Elliott and Janelle Monáe, who incorporated cyborg themes and metallics into their style. [15] Other 21st century musicians who have been characterized as Afrofuturist include singer FKA Twigs, [15] musical duo Ibeyi, [16] and DJ/producer Ras G. [17]

In more recent years, artists such as Rihanna and Beyoncé have often been interpreted by the public as having some non-human elements about them, exhibited in both their performances, and in their day to day interactions. Because the tabloids have so much control over the way that information is digested, the public receives images of these women that are distant and controlled solely by the media, and thus, these women are often painted as angry or unfeeling. Scholars such as Robin James have interrogated and expanded upon the work of Kodwo Eshun, and coined the idea of the "robo-diva". These scholars both argue that the Black experience has always been more alien than it has been human, and James connects the mechanics of the middle passage to alien abduction through concepts of kidnapping, isolation, and bowing down to an unknown power. Kodwo Eshun also posits that perhaps the categorization of "human" has no use in the Black community, and that instead, the category of "robot" is not only more powerful, but more accurately representative of the positioning in the social hierarchy in which Black people exist in the present day. Because musical artists (Rihanna, Beyoncé) exhibit such non-human qualities, they are often ostracized for being "cold" or "mechanical". The white patriarchy both fears and admires such artists due to their unapologetic displays of female sexuality and its interactions with technology. These fears then propel the virgin/whore dichotomy that stems from the trope of the Jezebel, and serves to further the racialized projections of stereotypes onto Black females in the music industry.

Janelle Monáe has made a conscious effort to restore Afrofuturist cosmology to the forefront of urban contemporary music. Her notable works include the music videos "Prime Time" [18] and "Many Moons", [19] which explore the realms of slavery and freedom through the world of cyborgs and the fashion industry. [20] [21] She is credited with proliferating Afrofuturist funk into a new Neo-Afrofuturism by use of her Metropolis-inspired alter-ego, Cindi Mayweather, who incites a rebellion against the Great Divide, a secret society, in order to liberate citizens who have fallen under their oppression. This ArchAndroid role reflects earlier Afrofuturistic figures Sun Ra and George Clinton, who created their own visuals as extraterrestrial beings rescuing African-Americans from the oppressive natures of Earth. Her influences include Metropolis , Blade Runner , and Star Wars . [22] The all Black Wondaland Arts Collective Society, of which Monáe is a founder, stated "We believe songs are spaceships. We believe music is the weapon of the future. We believe books are the stars." [23] Other musical artists to emerge since the turn of the millennium regarded as Afrofuturist include dBridge, SBTRKT, Shabazz Palaces, Heavyweight Dub Champion, [7] and "techno pioneers" Drexciya (with Gerald Donald). [24]

Chicago is home to a vibrant community of artists exploring Afrofuturism. Nick Cave, known for his Soundsuits project, has helped develop younger talent as the director of the graduate fashion program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Other artists include visual artists Hebru Brantley as well as contemporary artist Rashid Johnson, a Chicago native currently based in New York. In 2013, Chicago resident Ytasha L. Womack wrote the study Afrofuturism: The World of Black Science Fiction and Fantasy, and William Hayashi has published all three volumes of his Darkside Trilogy [25] which tells the story of what happens in America when the country discovers African Americans secretly living on the backside of the moon since before the arrival of Neil Armstrong, an extreme vision of segregation imposed by technologically advanced Blacks. [26] [27] [ self-published source ] Krista Franklin, a member of University of Chicago's Arts Incubator, is currently exploring the relation between Afrofuturism and the grotesque through her visual and written work with weaves and collected hair. Recently, she also created an audio narrative in collaboration with another Afrofuturist, Perpetual Rebel, called The Two Thousand and Thirteen Narrative(s) of Naima Brown, which explores the ideas of identity and transformation within the context of hair and African-American culture. [28]

The movement has grown globally in the arts. Afrofuturist Society was founded by curator Gia Hamilton in New Orleans. Artists like Demetrius Oliver from New York, Cyrus Kabiru from Nairobi, Lina Iris Viktor from Liberia, famed Nigerian American solar muralist, Shala., [29] [30] and Wanuri Kahiu of Kenya have all steeped their work in the cosmos or sci-fi. [31] [32] [33] [34] [35]


The creation of the term Afrofuturism in the 1990s was often primarily used to categorize "speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of 20th-century technoculture," [36] but was soon expanded to include artistic, scientific, and spiritual practices throughout the African diaspora. Contemporary practice retroactively identifies and documents historical instances of Afrofuturist practice and integrates them into the canon. For example, the Dark Matter anthologies edited by Sheree Thomas feature contemporary Black science fiction, discuss Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man in her introduction, "Looking for the Invisible," and also include older works by W. E. B. Du Bois, Charles W. Chesnutt, and George S. Schuyler. [37]

Lisa Yazsek argues that Ralph Ellison's 1952 novel, Invisible Man , should be thought of as a predecessor to Afrofuturist literature. Yaszek illustrates that Ellison draws upon Afrofuturist ideas that were not yet prevalent in African-American literature. Ellison critiques the traditional visions of black people's future in the United States, but does not provide readers a different future to imagine. Yaszek believes that Ellison does not offer any other futures so that the next generation of authors can. Invisible Man may not be Afrofuturist in the sense that it does not provide a better – or even any – future for black people in the United States, but it can be thought of as a call for people to start thinking and creating art with an Afrofuturist mindset. In this sense, Yaszek concludes that Ellison's novel is a canon in Afrofuturistic literature by serving as call for "this kind of future-historical art" to those who succeed him. [38]

A number of contemporary Black science fiction and speculative fiction authors have also been characterized as Afrofuturist or as employing Afrofuturist themes. Though she adamantly resists this label and strongly labels her work as Africanfuturist, many have still inaccurately labelled Nnedi Okorafor's work as Afrofuturist, both for her Hugo Award-winning Binti novella series, [39] and for her novel Who Fears Death are Africanfuturist. [16] Nancy Farmer won a Newbery Honor for her afrofuturist young adult novel The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm. [40] Steven Barnes has been called an Afrofuturist author for his alternate-history novels Lion's Blood and Zulu Heart . [16] N.K. Jemisin, Nalo Hopkinson, and Colson Whitehead have also been referred to as Afrofuturist authors. [41] Octavia Butler's novels are often associated with Afrofuturism; [42] this association has been somewhat controversial, since Butler incorporates multi-ethnic and multi-species communities that insist on "hybridity beyond the point of discomfort". [43] However, the fourth book of the science fiction Patternist series, Wild Seed , particularly fits ideas of Afrofuturist thematic concerns, as the narrative of two immortal Africans Doro and Anyanwu features science fiction technologies and an alternate anti-colonialist history of seventeenth century America. [44]


In recent years, there have been many museum exhibitions displaying art with Afrofuturist themes.

The Studio Museum in Harlem held a major exhibit exploring Afrofuturistic aesthetics from November 14, 2013 to March 9, 2014. The exhibit, called The Shadows Took Shape, displayed more than sixty works of art that looked at recurring themes such as identity in relation to technology, time, and space within African-American communities. Artists featured in the exhibit included Derrick Adams, Laylah Ali and Khaled Hafez. [45]

As a part of the MOMA's PS1 festival, King Britt curated Moondance: A Night in the Afro Future in 2014. From noon to six p.m. on April 13, people could attend Moondance and listen to lectures, live music or watch dance performances in celebration of Afrofuturism in contemporary culture. [46]

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture held a seminal group show of Visual Afrofuturists focusing on unambiguous science fiction and fantasy based art. The show, titled 'Unveiling Visions: The Alchemy of the Black Imagination' ran from October 1, 2015 - January 16, 2016. The closing night coincided with the Schomburg Black Comic Book Day. Unveiling Visions was curated by artist John Jennings (Co-founder of artist duo, Black Kirby w/Professor Stacey Robinson) and Afrofuturist Scholar, Reynaldo Anderson (founder of The Black Speculative Arts Movement). [47] The show featured artists such as Tony Puryear, Sheeba Maya, Mshindo Kuumba, Eric Wilkerson, Manzel Bowman, Grey Williamson, Tim Fielder, Stacey Robinson, and Shawn Alleyne. Unveiling Visions liner notes state: "exhibition includes artifacts from the Schomburg collections that are connected to Afrofuturism, black speculative imagination and Diasporan cultural production. Offering a fresh perspective on the power of speculative imagination and the struggle for various freedoms of expression in popular culture, Unveiling Visions showcases illustrations and other graphics that highlight those popularly found in science fiction, magical realism and fantasy. Items on display include film posters, comics, T-shirts, magazines, CD covers, playbills, religious literature, and more." [48]

In April 2016, Niama Safia Sandy curated an exhibit entitled "Black Magic: AfroPasts / Afrofutures" at the Corridor Gallery in Brooklyn, New York. [49] The multidisciplinary art exhibit looks at the relationship between magical realism and afrofuturism through the Black diaspora. [50] In a description of the collection, Sandy stated: "There's a lot of looking back and looking forward happening in this work... [and there's a lot of] celebrating those journeys whether they are intentional or forced journeys." [51]

The exhibition Afro-Tech and the Future of Re-Invention is running from October 21, 2017 until April 22, 2018 [52] at Dortmunder U in Dortmund, Germany and "looks at speculative visions of the future and current developments in the field of digital technology by artists and inventors from Africa and the African diaspora...." [53]

The exhibition,'Black Metropolis: 30 Years of Afrofuturism, Comics, Music, Animation, Decapitated Chickens, Heroes, Villains and Negroes' is a one-man show focusing on the career of cartoonist and visual afrofuturist, Tim Fielder. " [54] The show, designed to travel over multiple gallery spaces, opened at New York Gallatin Galleries from May 23-May 30th, 2016. Curated by Boston Fielder, the exhibit featured both published and unpublished work ranging from independent comics art for alternative magazine, Between C & D and mainstream comics work done for Marvel Comics. Black Metropolis, revived at The Hammonds House Museum in Atlanta, GA for the museum's 30th Anniversary October 12-November 25, 2018." [55]



Jared Richardson's Attack of the Boogeywoman: Visualizing Black Women's Grotesquerie in Afrofuturism [56] assesses how the aesthetic functions as a space for black women to engage with the intersection of topics such as race, gender, and sexuality. The representation and treatment of black female bodies is deconstructed by Afrofuturist contemporaries and amplified to alien and gruesome dimensions by artists such as Wangechi Mutu and Shoshanna Weinberger.

Beyoncé's 2016 short film Lemonade included feminist afrofuturism in its concept. The film featured Ibeyi, Laolu Senbanjo, Amandla Stenberg, Quvenzhané Wallis, YouTube singing stars Chloe x Halle, Zendaya, 2015 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Serena Williams, [57] and the sophisticated womanist poetry of Somali-British writer  Warsan Shire. [58] The through-line is the empowerment of black women referencing both marital relationships and the historical trauma from the enslavement of African-Americans from 1619–1865,[ not in citation given ] through Reconstruction and Jim Crow (1870–1965). The mothers of Trayvon Martin (Sybrina Fulton), Michael Brown (Lesley McFadden), Eric Garner (Gwen Carr) are featured holding pictures of their deceased sons in homage to the importance of their lives. [59] The novel Kindred by Octavia Butler also explores the empowerment of women though the story of her protagonist Dana. The book explores the idea of autonomy and having control over one's life/destiny. Through the exploration of women's power in the time of slavery to the more current time, Butler is able to demonstrate the endurance of women through the harsh social factors.

The grotesque

In the Afro-Surreal Manifesto, Afro-Surrealism is juxtaposed with European surrealism, with European surrealism being empirical. It is consistent with the New Black Aesthetic in that the art seeks to disturb. It samples from old art pieces updating them with current images. This technique calls to the forefront those past images and the sentiments, memories, or ideas around them and combines them with new images in a way that those of the current generation can still identify. Both seek to disturb, but there is more of a "mutant" psychology that is going on. Afro-Futuristic artists seek to propose a deviant beauty, a beauty in which disembodiment is both inhumane, yet distinct; Afro-Futuristic artists speculate on the future, where Afro-Surrealism is about the present. [60]


Afrofuturism takes representations of the lived realities of black people in the past and present, and reexamines the narratives to attempt to build new truths outside of the dominant cultural narrative. By analyzing the ways in which alienation has occurred, Afrofuturism works to connect the African diaspora with its histories and knowledge of racialized bodies. Space and aliens function as key products of the science fiction elements; black people are envisioned to have been the first aliens by way of the Middle Passage. Their alien status connotes being in a foreign land with no history, but as also being disconnected from the past via the traditions of slavery where slaves were made to renounce their ties to Africa in service of their slave master. [61]

Kodwo Eshun locates the first alienation within the context of the Middle Passage. He writes that Afrofuturist texts work to reimagine slavery and alienation by using "extraterrestriality as a hyperbolic trope to explore the historical terms, the everyday implications of forcibly imposed dislocation, and the constitution of Black Atlantic subjectivities". This location of dystopian futures and present realities places science fiction and novels built around dystopian societies directly in the tradition of black realities. [62]


In Afrofuturism, water in many different works symbolizes both erasure and the existence of black life. These dual meanings while seemingly contradictory actually play off and inform each other. For instance, the middle passage can be considered where the first erasure happened of African- American history. There are no stories that survived that passage. As Ruth Mayer states, in the United States, "black history is both there and not there, evident in countless traces, scars, and memories, yet largely submerged when it comes to written accounts and first person documentations of the past from the viewpoint of the victims." [61] Yet, it is through this erasure that Afrofuturism is able to craft histories. These histories live both in fact and in fiction, as the true history was lost in the waters of the Atlantic. Water erased the history, but it also allowed for the creation of a new history.

This is where Afrofuturism comes into play. To have a future, one's past must be defined. However, for African Americans, though their "history" has been drowned, Afrofuturism resuscitates this history. By its creation, it creates new possibilities for the future. In Carrie Mae Weems' triptych Untitled (Ebo Landing), the Afrofuturism piece crafts a space with two pictures that could be both African and America with its depiction of lush greenery. In this way, the piece highlights how the original space of water has given way in which Afrofuturism can imagine a past or future that lives in the space of truth and fiction, the Schrödinger's cat of African American past.

Another example of an Afrofuturist work that deals specifically with the theme of water is 2009 film Pumzi , which depicts an enclosed society in which water is utterly scarce and totally conserved. The film's ambiguous ending leaves viewers wondering whether there was a neighboring society with access to water the whole time, or if the main character has died a heroine by planting a tree that will eventually bloom into a whole forest.


Ostensibly, Afrofuturism has to do with reclaiming the lost identities or lost perspectives that have been subverted or overlooked. When Mark Dery coined the term, he saw Afrofuturism as giving rise to "a troubling antinomy: Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces of its history, imagine possible futures?" Furthermore, Afrofuturism is not restricted to any single medium; there are Afrofuturist novels and essays, academic writings and musical works. But whatever the medium, Afrofuturism involves reclaiming some type of agency over one's story, a story that has been told, throughout much of history, by official culture in the name of white power. It is for this reason that Dery says, "African-American culture is Afrofuturist at its heart." Because the ancestors of African-Americans were forcibly removed from their homelands and stripped of their history, any culture that has found its way into the Black lexicon is at its roots an Afrofuturist notion. It is at its heart reclaiming a past erased and creating a future based on that reimagined past.

Afrofuturism 2.0

Afrofuturism 2.0 was coined during an exchange between Alondra Nelson and Reynaldo Anderson at the Alien Bodies conference in 2013; where Anderson noted that the previous definition was insufficient due to the rise of social media and new technology. Following the publication of the co-edited volume Afrofuturism 2.0: The Rise of Astro-Blackness, in the late 2010s, the Black Speculative Arts Movement, a traveling art, comic, and film convention, released a manifesto called Afrofuturism 2.0 and the Black Speculative Arts Movement: Notes on a Manifesto. [63] The manifesto was written by Reynaldo Anderson at Harris-Stowe State University as an attempt to redefine and refit Afrofuturism for the 21st century. The 2.0 volume and the manifesto defines Afrofuturism 2.0 as "The early twenty-first century technogenesis of Black identity reflecting counter histories, hacking and or appropriating the influence of network software, database logic, cultural analytics, deep remixability, neurosciences, enhancement and augmentation, gender fluidity, posthuman possibility, the speculative sphere with transdisciplinary applications and has grown into an important Diasporic techno-cultural Pan African movement". [63] Afrofuturism 2.0 is characterized by five dimensions to include metaphysics, aesthetics, theoretical and applied science, social sciences and programmatic spaces; and in the twenty-first century is no longer bound to its original definition, as a term once dealing with cultural aesthetics and the digital divide, but has been broadened to be known also as a philosophy of science, metaphysics and geopolitics. [64]

In this manifesto, Anderson acknowledges and accounts for the changes in technology, social movements, and even philosophical changes in modern society while also speculating as to how the Afrofuturist narrative will be changed because of it. This is particularly in regards to the rise and boom of social media platforms.

In conjunction with this, Los Angeles-based artist Martine Syms penned an online article in 2013 called The Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto that is composed of a list of tenets that, supposedly, all Mundane Afrofuturists recognize. Though the article is in part parodic and sarcastic, it aims to identify and make light of overused tropes within Afrofuturist works like "magical Negroes" or "references to Sun Ra". Through this identification of "overused tropes" and a later definition of rules to actually subvert these tropes entitled "The Mundane Afrofuturist promise", [65] Syms requests a new, updated vision for Afrofuturist works, which falls in line with the framework of Afrofuturism 2.0.

List of Afrofuturists

This list is in alphabetical order, by genre then by last name or by the first letter of a band/group name.

Multimedia artists

Musicians and music groups

Visual artists


In film

In video games

Related Research Articles

Drexciya was an American electronic music duo from Detroit, Michigan, consisting of James Stinson and Gerald Donald.

The Last Angel of History, directed in 1996 by John Akomfrah and written and researched by Edward George of Black Audio Film Collective, is a 45-minute documentary that deals with concepts of Afrofuturism as a metaphor for the displacement of black culture and roots. The film is a hybrid documentary and fictional narrative. Documentary segments include traditional talking-head clips from musicians, writers, and social critics, as well as archival video footage and photographs. Described as "A truly masterful film essay about Black aesthetics that traces the deployments of science fiction within pan-African culture", it has also been called "one of the most influential video-essays of the 1990s, influencing filmmakers and inspiring conferences, novels and exhibitions".

Sheree Renée Thomas is an American writer, book editor, publisher, and contributor to many notable publications.

Kodwo Eshun British writer

Kodwo Eshun is a British-Ghanaian writer, theorist and filmmaker. He studied English Literature at University College, Oxford University, and Romanticism and Modernism MA Hons at Southampton University. He currently teaches on the MA in Contemporary Art Theory in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and at CCC Research Master Program of the Visual Arts Department at HEAD.

Mark Dery American journalist

Mark Dery is an American author, lecturer and cultural critic. He writes about "media, the visual landscape, fringe trends, and unpopular culture." From 2001 to 2009, he taught media criticism, literary journalism, and the essay in the Department of Journalism at New York University. In January 2000, he was appointed Chancellor's Distinguished Fellow at the University of California, Irvine. In summer 2009, he was awarded a scholar-in-residence position at the American Academy in Rome, Italy.

Nisi Shawl American writer

Nisi Shawl is an African-American writer, editor, and journalist. She is best known as an author of science fiction and fantasy short stories who writes and teaches about how fantastic fiction might reflect real-world diversity of gender, sexual orientation, race, colonialism, physical ability, age, and other sociocultural factors.

Black science fiction or black speculative fiction is an umbrella term that covers a variety of activities within the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres where people of the African diaspora take part or are depicted. Some of its defining characteristics include a critique of the social structures leading to black oppression paired with an investment in social change. Black science fiction is "fed by technology but not led by it." This means that black science fiction often explores with human engagement with technology instead of technology as an innate good.

Janelle Monáe American singer, songwriter, rapper, actress, and producer

Janelle Monáe Robinson is an American singer, songwriter, actress and producer signed to Atlantic Records, as well as her own imprint, the Wondaland Arts Society.

Dark Matter is an anthology series of science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories and essays produced by people of African descent. The editor of the series is Sheree Thomas. The first book in the series, Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (2000), won the 2001 World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology. The second book in the Dark Matter series, Dark Matter: Reading the Bones (2004), won the World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology in 2005. A forthcoming third book in the series is tentatively named Dark Matter: Africa Rising.

Wanuri Kahiu Kenyan film director

Wanuri Kahiu is a Kenyan film director, producer, and author. She has received several awards and nominations for the films which she directed, including the awards for Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Picture at the Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2009 for her dramatic feature film From a Whisper. She is also the co-founder of AFROBUBBLEGUM, a media collective dedicated to supporting African art.

<i>The ArchAndroid</i> 2010 studio album by Janelle Monáe

The ArchAndroid is the debut studio album by American singer Janelle Monáe, released on May 18, 2010, by Wondaland Arts Society and Bad Boy Records. Production for the album took place at Wondaland Studios in Atlanta and was primarily handled by Monáe, Nate "Rocket" Wonder, and Chuck Lightning, with only one song without production by Monáe.

Cauleen Smith American film director

Cauleen Smith is an American born filmmaker and multimedia artist. She is best known for her experimental works that address the African-American identity, specifically the issues facing black women today. Her rise into the spotlight first occurred with her much acclaimed feature film Drylongso earning her national recognition as a filmmaker. Her film style reflects the influence of her college mentors Angela Davis, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and Lynn Hershman Leeson. Having resided for seven years in Chicago, where she has worked on multiple projects that explore the life of renowned jazz musician Sun Ra, Smith decided that she would be leaving for Los Angeles in November 2017. Smith currently teaches in the School of Art at the California Institute of the Arts.

The Comet is a science fiction short story, written by W. E. B. Du Bois in 1920. It discusses the relationship between Jim Davis and Julia after a comet hits New York and unleashes toxic gases that kill everyone except them.

Light Years Away (Warp 9 song) 1983 single by Warp 9

"Light Years Away" is the second single by the hip hop group, Warp 9, released in 1983. Written by Lotti Golden and Richard Scher and produced by Lotti Golden, Richard Scher, and John "Jellybean" Benitez, the song appears on the group's debut album It's a Beat Wave charting on the Billboard R&B and dance charts.

The Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC), founded in 1982 and active until 1998, comprised seven Black British and diaspora multimedia artists and film makers: John Akomfrah, Lina Gopaul, Avril Johnson, Reece Auguiste, Trevor Mathison, Edward George and Claire Joseph. Joseph left in 1985 and was replaced by David Lawson. The group initially came together as students at Portsmouth Polytechnic, and after graduation relocated to Hackney in east London.

Afro-Surrealism or Afrosurrealism is a literary and cultural aesthetic and liberatory framework that seeks to cultivate alternative and expanded ways of knowing and being for Black people. In 1974, Amiri Baraka used the term to describe the work of Henry Dumas. D. Scot Miller in 2009 wrote his famous Afrosurreal Manifesto in which he says, "Afro-Surrealism sees that all 'others' who create from their actual, lived experience are surrealist..." The manifesto delineates Afro-Surrealism from Surrealism and Afro-Futurism. The manifesto also declares the necessity of Afro-Surrealism, especially in San Francisco, California. The manifesto lists ten tenants that Afro-Surrealism follows including how "Afro-Surrealists restore the cult of the past," and how "Afro-Surreal presupposes that beyond this visible world, there is an invisible world striving to manifest, and it is our job to uncover it."

The Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (Ccru) was a student-run interdisciplinary collective founded in 1995 out of the University of Warwick's philosophy department. It was associated with the work of Sadie Plant and Nick Land.

Krista Franklin is an African American poet and visual artist, whose main artistic focus is collage. Her work, which addresses race, gender, and class issues, combines personal, pop-cultural, and historical imagery.

In film, Afrofuturism is the incorporation of black people's history and culture in science fiction film and related genres. The Guardian's Ashley Clark said the term Afrofuturism has "an amorphous nature" but that Afrofuturist films are "united by one key theme: the centring of the international black experience in alternate and imagined realities, whether fiction or documentary; past or present; science fiction or straight drama". The New York Times's Glenn Kenny said, "Afrofuturism is more prominent in music and the graphic arts than it is in cinema, but there are movies out there that illuminate the notion in different ways."

Rasheedah Phillips is an artist, author, community activist and lawyer based in Philadelphia. She is the creator of The Afrofuturist Affair and, together with Camae Ayewa, the Black Quantum Futurism multidisciplinary artist collective.


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