The AfroFuturist / AfroSurrealist Connection: The Visionary As Spectacle

BK Adams – I Am Art

“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” – Frank Zappa

Since my blog does cover the African diaspora through both Afrofuturist and Afrosurrealist lens, I wanted to bring Afrosurrealism more into the picture. Afrosurrealism does not have as much articles on it as Afrofuturism does, but I want to show the connections between the two based on the Afrosurrealism Manifesto.

One afrofuturist I follow is afrovisionary (I know, so much afro!) and the name had me thinking about what is a visionary. Then I thought about the word itself with its root word, “vision” and its definition. The word visionary has both futuristic and surreal elements in it. A visionary is one who has “unusual foresight and imagination.” Visionaries envision or speculate about not only possible futures, but also envision invisible worlds, dream worlds, and the supernatural or paranormal. They can see beyond worlds that already exist or are visible.

In reference to the word “vision,” it relates to other words like sight, observation, watching and looking. It also relates to the word speculate, a word often used in afrofuturism. The word speculate means to contemplate and to conjecture, but also its root, meaning to observe and to look or view, connects it to words like spectacle, spectrum, specter, and spectator.

Essentially, in order to be a visionary — to see the scope of something, whether it be an entire spectrum or specters, and bear witness to it — one has to stand out and be on display. Visionaries risk being judged, ridiculed, not believed, and being called strange, a freak, mad, insane, and crazy. They will be asked why they are trying so hard or told that they are doing too much. They will told to be normal and fit in like everyone else. A visionary has to be willing to be a spectacle. Think of the story of Joseph from the Bible and his strange dreams, which he told to his father and brothers and led him to be sold into slavery by his own brothers. His dreams did end up coming true. Think of the people who we call visionaries today; they all had to present their visions and ideas to an audience for them to manifest.

Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru

Here are two people who could be considered visionaries, Lauryn Hill and Neil deGrasse Tyson, speaking about the denial of truth, yet illustrates part of the nature of and commitment to being a visionary:

“If everyone is a product of this society, who will say the things that need to be said, and do the things that need to be done, without compromise? Truth will never start out popular in a world more concerned with marketability than righteousness. It will initially suffer ridicule and even violence- yet ultimately it is undeniable. All of humanity is living in a dream world, but suffering real consequences.” – Lauryn Hill

“Every great scientific truth goes through three phases. First, people deny it. Second, they say it conflicts with the Bible. Third, they say they’ve known it all along.” —Neil deGrasse Tyson

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