What the heck is Afrofuturism?

Afrofuturism is an important phenomenon that helps to win back the past and the future of Africa from the West-centered culture. It is an ideology with black identity, steeped in the African culture and traditions, that paints the future from the perspective of black people.

What is the purpose of Afrofuturism?

Afrofuturism evaluates the past and future to create better conditions for the present generation of Black people through the use of technology, often presented through art, music, and literature.

According to designers based on the continent, Africa has been steadily producing creative talents over the past decade, even though popular culture is only now telling this story to the world.

Talents to emerge from Africa include architect Diébédo Francis Kéré from Burkina Faso, who designed the most recent Serpentine Pavilion. Photo is by Ste Murray

In her article “What the Heck Is Afrofuturism?”, Jamie Broadnax aims at discussing the phenomenon of Afrofuturism from not only artistic and philosophical but also social and political contexts. Her work takes an important place in a creative tradition since she speaks about the movement that has a great potential to give people of African origin back their power. This article receives a positive evaluation since it carries out an important social idea and proves that with any forecasts in the future, the importance of black culture will increase.

Combining tribal motifs with modern tech, this photo series was created by Kenyan photographer Osborne Macharia to accompany the cinema release of Black Panther

Afrofuturism is a cultural aesthetic that combines science-fiction, history and fantasy to explore the African-American experience and aims to connect those from the black diaspora with their forgotten African ancestry

The term afrofuturism has its origins in African-American science fiction. Today it is generally used to refer to literature music and visual art that explores the African-American experience and in particular the role of slavery in that experience.

Afrofuturism is the reimagining of a future filled with arts, science and technology seen through a black lens. The term was conceived a quarter-century ago by white author Mark Dery in his essay “Black to the Future,” which looks at speculative fiction within the African diaspora. The essay rests on a series of interviews with black content creators.

What makes Afrofuturism significantly different from standard science fiction is that it’s steeped in ancient African traditions and black identity. A narrative that simply features a black character in a futuristic world is not enough. To be Afrofuturism, it must be rooted in and unapologetically celebrate the uniqueness and innovation of black culture.

The most resonant and front-facing Afrofuturistic relics are in the arts, namely speculative fiction, music, and fashion. Like DuBois’ “The Comet,” Afrofuturistic sci-fi grapples with how race and difference manifest in future worlds. This is as true in the 20th century works of Octavia Butler and Samuel Delany as it is of the recent novels of N. K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor. Okorafor has said she didn’t read much traditional science fiction growing up because she “couldn’t relate to these stories preoccupied with xenophobia, colonization, and seeing aliens as ‘others.’” Her African mythology-inspired Binti trilogy and her other works are couched in a different understanding of history, which doubtlessly influences her conception of the future: “My science fiction has different ancestors—African ones.”

In music, acts like Sun Ra and Parliament Funkadelic built their looks and sounds on a marriage between Black culture and futuristic iconography. For Afrofuturist artists, technology is an essential part of the sound. Play Parliament’s acid-infused take on the Motown sound in “I Bet You” and feel the future course through your veins. “These are masters of craft, originators of new sonic (and therefore social) worlds,” says Nelson. “They all break, deform, and remake standard uses of music technology, genre and even expectations of race, gender, and sexuality.”

Afrofuturism’s importance also transcends the arts, and insofar as it can be described as a political identity or ideology (Nelson and other scholars leave open this possibility), then it provides a lens through which we can view the present and future.