Join us on a fantastic voyage into the Afrofuture as we give you a crash course in what Afrofuturism is, where it comes from and a glimpse of what it may yet become. In this short film we’ll explore Afrofuturist music, art, literature, film and more!
Narrator: Freedom starts in the mind.
Afrofuturism is a platform where Black people realize
our own liberation by exploring self-determined futures
across many facets of expression.
Afrofuturism is a new way to understand
the state of being Black, free of the terrorism,
oppression and violence of the past.
The term was first used in 1994 by author Mark Dery
in his essay Black to the Future.
We're going on a fantastic voyage into the Afrofuture.
As we move through music, art,
design, literature, film, and culture,
we'll explore what Afrofuturism is,
check out its deep roots, and, if we're lucky,
we'll get a glimpse of what it may yet become.
Man: Do you feel ready?
Narrator: The roots of Afrofuturism can be found
in ancient spiritual beliefs
originating on the continent of Africa.
These beliefs influenced iconic Black American creatives
who in turn brought new cosmic perspectives
to their audiences.
For the Yoruba of Nigeria,
life is a series of reincarnations.
In this culture,
which dates back to at least the first millennium BCE,
both the physical and spiritual worlds
are ruled by the mighty god Olorun,
who owns the sky and everything below it.
Communication with the spirit world
is essential for the Yoruba,
and that happens through a relationship with divinities
called Orishas, who are primordial, ancestral,
and nature-based divinities
that the faithful worship in tribute to.
The Yoruba belief system
is the basis for the spiritual practices of Cuban Santeria,
Haitian vodoun, and African-American voodoo.
The Dogon people of Mali
are known for their ancient system of astronomy,
which dates back to 3000 B.C.
The Dogon also developed calendars, calculators,
medicine, and pharmacology.
Dogon origin story involves Amma, the supreme God
who created the Nommo, amphibious hermaphroditic beings
who came to Earth from the star Sirius A.
We will see the stars again.
I want to do more than see them, brother.
The ancient Egyptians held a complex belief system
that was an integral part of life.
In fact, the ancient Egyptians had no word for religion
because it wasn't separate from their existence.
They believed in deities of various levels,
but all gods and goddesses were involved in the human world.
These deities took many forms,
and the mighty pharaoh bridged the human and divine worlds.
These African cultures are in the DNA of Afrofuturism,
and they show up repeatedly in Afrofuturism's unique forms
of artistic expression.
20th-century Black artists who wanted to be
free of social, political, and creative constraints
were first drawn to ancient ideas of worlds
beyond the here and now.
These vivid concepts and belief systems
were a liberating way around the barriers
they faced in everyday life.
Cosmic jazz musician Sun Ra was the pioneer
at the forefront of this vanguard cultural phenomenon.
Not only was he an iconic artist,
he became the catalyst for Afrofuturism
in modern Black American culture.
Born Herman Blount in 1914,
he was a musical prodigy as a child,
and as a college student at Alabama A&M University,
He described being abducted by aliens and taken to Saturn.
The interaction he said he experienced
changed everything for him.
He shifted gears from straight-ahead jazz
to the cosmic sound that defined his career.
Just like the pharaohs in antiquity,
Sun Ra was also a bridge.
Through his music, he connected his audience
to the expansive freedom of the cosmos.
In Sun Ra's 1974 film "Space Is The Place,"
he rescues Black people by
using music to transplant them from Earth to another planet,
where their lives would be free of racism.
Sun Ra's political message was a testament
to how strongly Black people felt
about their own liberation --
that they would leave the planet
in order to be free of America's oppression.
Sun Ra was right in sync with the revolutionary spirit
of the 1970s.
Sun Ra wrapped himself in the iconography of ancient Egypt
and the planet he said he visited years before -- Saturn.
Sun Ra's vision of space as the place to be
was shared by funkateer George Clinton
and his alter ego Star Child,
along with Clinton's band, Parliament.
At the same time, trailblazing 1970s artists
LaBelle and Betty Davis were avant garde,
straight-talking, empowered women
who knew what they wanted, sexually and otherwise.
That in itself was an alien concept for many.
As we've seen, musical artists introduced Afrofuturism
into America's psyche.
Music is still a realm where artists create
the soundtrack for Black futures.
Their music and their lyrics create a vibe
and promise possibilities not limited by the here and now.
Singer Grace Jones hails from Jamaica
and has a long track record
as an edgy, futuristic counterculture goddess.
Now in her 70s,
Grace is still rocking stages around the world.
Missy Elliott has always been a trailblazer
with a futuristic approach,
while Erykah Badu's earthy vibe is a different kind of cosmic.
Janelle Monae is without a doubt
a prolific, modern Afrofuturist queen.
Philly native King Britt is a maverick of electronic music.
He's an innovative DJ and composer
who produces epic, funky, sci-fi music
under the moniker Fhloston Paradigm.
And then there's cosmic jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington,
who has stepped into his own as Sun Ra's heir apparent.
Across the pond in Great Britain,
1990s jungle music combined dance hall reggae
with glitchy electronic beats.
This new sound was a side of Afrofuturism
that no one saw coming.
Jungle uprooted Black Caribbean music
and put it in a cyber-future far, far away
from its birthplace in sunny paradise.
Producers Goldie and Roni Size
are UK pioneers of jungle's younger sibling, drum and bass.
Goldie laid the pain of the hood on top of tech-heavy rhythms
in a way that had never been done before.
Roni Size's unique, futuristic sound is hard-hitting, soulful,
and maybe even mathematical.
In the 21st century,
Black artists from all over the world
are making music from a futuristic perspective,
creating a mosaic of innovative, soulful sounds.
Brazil has the largest Black population
outside the continent of Africa.
These days, it's home to Black recording artists
who embrace Afrofuturism
while telling a new story of Black Brazilian life
that's empowered by its African past,
even as it speeds into the future.
Literature is a realm where imaginations truly run free.
In the way that musicians use sound,
Afrofuturist writers use the power of the written word
to show us worlds where Black people are center.
They are quite literally world builders.
Writers have been essential
in rooting Afrofuturism in the collective consciousness.
Novelist Octavia Butler
is the empress of modern Afrofuturist literature.
Her speculative novels imagine the outcomes
of political, social, and environmental dilemmas
in possible future scenarios.
When Butler came on to the scene in the early 1970s,
her work was groundbreaking
because she centered people of color and women
as full participants in humanity's future worlds.
Author Samuel Delaney
is the don of modern Afrofuturist literature.
His stories often take place in complex, high-tech worlds
where political and social conflict play out,
and where gender and sexuality are fluid.
The fact that Delaney does all this with characters of color
was unheard of when his work was first published.
These days, there is an exciting new group
of Afrofuturist writers, both veteran and up-and-coming,
who are telling vibrantly diverse futurist stories.
Their work centers Black characters
and the cultures of Africa and the African Diaspora
in worlds both near and far.
Their wildly-imaginative stories
come from a range of perspectives,
in unique settings whose rules have no limits.
Afrofuturist literature spans many genres -- science fiction,
fantasy, cyberpunk, magical realism, nonfiction and more.
What do you remember?
A fast-growing community of Black filmmakers
is flipping the script on sci-fi film worldwide,
with intriguing, culturally rich,
speculative cinematic stories about Black characters.
Their moving images explore Black futures
without the limits of time, space, or reality as we know it.
Like filmmakers, visual artists are also illustrating
unlimited possibilities for existence in the Afrofuture.
They allow us to see meaningful,
imaginative visions of unfettered Blackness
with mind-blowing clarity.
Their art reflects the past, present, future,
and everything in between.
Speaking of visuals,
the children of the African Diaspora
are known for loving adornment.
The truth is, the origins of eye-catching Black cosmic style
go back to our ancient foremothers and forefathers.
The distinctive looks they sported had meaning
that reflected their connection
to the world around them.
Today, Afrofuturist designers from around the world
combine African-rooted aesthetics with
to create gorgeous, head-turning styles
that celebrate intrinsic Blackness.
Afrofuturist style reinterprets shapes,
forms, and silhouettes,
which become a timeless, wearable synthesis
of past, present, and future.
Afrofuturist cultural stewards
are taking representations to the next level.
They go to society's leading edge to build consensus
in socially-conscious coalitions to improve Black life
from an Afrocentric perspective,
with an eye toward a better, brighter future.
Ingrid Lafleur is the founder
of the Afrofuture Strategies Institute,
a consulting firm that works with communities and businesses
to ethically imagine autonomous potential futures
using methodologies based on Afrofuture principles.
Black Quantum Futurism is a Philadelphia-based
multidisciplinary artist collective
that explores the intersection of time,
quantum concepts, and Blackness.
Located at the University of Iowa in Iowa City,
the Center for Afrofuturist Studies
is an artist residency program
that reimagines the futures of marginalized people
by creating dynamic work spaces for artists of color.
The Afro Punk Festival is an international phenomenon
that celebrates cutting-edge Black music, art, and culture
in major cities all over the world.
All of these cultural guardians remind us and reassure us
of the timeless beauty and power of Blackness.
The Afrofuture holds everything that Black people
choose to make a reality.
We're speeding deeper into the 21st century,
and Afrofuturism is on the leading edge of this exciting,
The possibilities are as fascinating
as they are infinite.
See you there.
♪ Love and life interested me so ♪
♪ That I dared to knock at the door of the cosmos ♪
♪ Love and life interested me so ♪
♪ That I dared to knock at the door of the cosmos ♪
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