In this entry we endeavour to answer the question: What is Afrofuturism?
The best way to answer the question is by examining the aspirations of Afrofuturism Culture which will enable us to see what is Afrofuturism.
WHAT IS AFROFUTURISM: AFROFUTURISM CULTURE
Afrofuturism Culture is a philosophy of science, aesthetic and history that explores the developing intersection of African culture with technology. Afrofuturism Culture combines elements of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, Afrocentrism and magic realism with non-Western cosmologies in order to critique the present-day dilemmas of black people and to interrogate and re-examine historical events…This psychic dimension of Afrofuturism is key to understanding what is Afrofuturism.
The term Black To The Future to describe what is Afrofuturism Culture was coined by early Technoculture Writer Mark Dery in his 1993 essay “Black to the Future”.
Seminal Afrofuturistic works that define what is Afrofuturism Culture 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.
AFROFUTURISM & BLAXPLOITATION
Afrofuturism can be distinguished from Blaxploitation, an ethnic subgenre of exploitation films emerging in the United States during the early 1970s. The films, portrayed famous but stereotypical Black characters like ‘Shaft’.
Although Blaxploitation films were originally made specifically for an urban black audience, the genre’s audience appeal soon broadened across racial and ethnic lines once Hollywood realized the potential profit of expanding the audiences of Blaxpoitation films across those racial lines.
The difference between Afrofuturism culture and Blaxploitation lies in the ability of Afrofuturist Protagonists to imagine a reality beyond their current experience, whereas characters like ‘Shaft’ almost ‘revel’ in the ghetto experience without feeling the need to question how they got there, and whether perhaps the ghetto is not their natural home and should think of leaving.
Such ‘fundamental’ questions are cast aside for purely visceral pleasures in Films like ‘Shaft’. Afrofuturists however, directly confront the Social structure by questioning the ‘appropriate’ place for Black people firstly in Art itself, and by necessary extension Society…It is the rejection of a preconceived notion of the ‘role’ a Black person is expected to play in Art, and ultimately Society itself this central to defining what is Afrofuturism.
Basquiat & Other Afrofuturist Artists
Jean-Michel Basquiat December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) was an American artist who during the late 1970s combined the hip hop, punk, street art movements with classical art.
You may remember the ‘Hip Hop Faculty’ entry we did on Graffiti and Basquiat last year. Since then, Basquiat’s ‘Untitled’ 1982 painting, depicting a skull, set a new record high for any U.S. artist at auction, selling for $110,500,000.
The mantle has been carried by quite a few Artists from the Eclectic Sun Ra and Grace Jones, with Janelle Monae representing the movement in Pop Culture today. The success of Black Panther has further cemented the appeal of the Afrofuturist aesthetic.
Grace Jones: Slave To The Rhythm Full Album
Afrofuturism represents a re-imagining of the Self beyond the limitations imposed by Society in both Art and ‘real’ life. In expressing themselves in ‘unexpected’ ways, Afrofuturists challenge the normalization of Black marginalisation within Society itself.
Keep it locked as we continue to explore and spotlight Afrofuturism Art, Afrofuturism Books, Afrofuturism Music and Afrofuturism Fashion as our tribute to the Afrofuturist Movement including our Pinterest ‘Muthaland Funk’ Board below:
Links & Credits
Famous Basquiat Works: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-basquiat-jean-michel-artworks.htm#pnt_3