From its beginning almost 40 years ago, Hip-Hop culture has had afrofuturist tendencies, from costumes and sounds of artists like Afrika Bambaataa and Ramellzee to later Missy Elliot and her videos with Hype Williams; to the hacking of street lamps to power sounds systems and other innovative rewiring to create the music; to the otherworldly movements of breakdancers and the artwork of graffiti. Well, choreographer and leader of the Renegade Performance Group, Andre M. Zachery, decided to pay homage to that spirit of Hip-Hop culture highlighting the power and politics of graffiti culture through dance. In the first work of Renegade’s AFROFUTURISM Series, called The Inscription Project, the piece takes inspiration from the art and philosophy of Ramellzee; it seeks to reignite the original purpose of the art movement as a politically empowering means to give voice and shed light on those who are on the margins of society and the social injustice they face everyday.
Thinking about Janelle Monae’s recent videos for “Dance Apocalyptic” and “Q.U.E.E.N.,” I was inspired to write about booty dancing and its relationship to us in the African diaspora. With Miley Cyrus releasing twerking videos and claiming that she wants a sound that “feels black,” I cannot help but feel a bit of deja vu, by way of Elvis, the so-called “pelvis.” I cannot help but think of the way Afro-diasporic dances, like hip-swiveling, waist rolling, booty shaking movements, that are significant to us and part of our lived experiences, are vilified, hypersexualized, and laughed at when we do it, but when others outside our cultures appropriate it, its not treated with as much disgust and disrespect.
Booty dances are one of the connecting parts of cultures across the diaspora from whining (wining, wainin, etc.) and perreo in the Caribbean, to the several dance names in the United States from shake a tailfeather, da butt and twerking, to mapouka, soukous and others in many African countries. Yet although booty dancing has been part of our cultures and many of us have grown up with them, others, and even some, of us still see it as negative, stereotyping it ghetto and low-class, and not a sacred, traditional part of our cultures. Often these judgements are using morals indoctrinated into us by heteropatriarchal religions like Christianity and Islam. Black men are not expected to move their hips and black women who do so are immediately slut-shamed.
Enjoy these two videos that I recently saw that include themes about earth and nature from a speculative fiction angle. Also, take a look at Outdoor Afro, a social community encouraging the exploration of nature.
Book video for Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents
As Ebony celebrated Katherine Dunham, Nick Cave was featuring dozens of Alvin Ailey dancers wearing 30 colorful horse “soundsuits” in his public performance piece at Grand Central station, HEARD•NY. Presented by Creative Time and MTA Arts, the 30 minute performances included a grazing pastoral music and dance sequence followed by a rhythmic choreographed dance, “crossings” in two rings in the hall. The “crossings” take place two time each day, 11 am and 2 pm, this week until Sunday. Harpists Shelley Burgon and Mary Lattimore and percussionists Robert Levin and Junior Wedderburn provided live musical accompaniment and William Gill did the choreography.
If you can keep dancing especially when no one thought you would survive, then you have traveled to a region beyond death. Last weekend, Movement for the Urban Village‘s (MUV) Sankofa performance showed how our expressions (dance, music, words, names and silence) transcend boundaries and even death. As George Clinton says in “Mothership Connection,” “You have overcome, for I am here.”
The production opened with their “Bearers” dances which featured a soundtrack of Parliament-Funkadelic songs, “Music for My Mother,” “Mothership Connection,” “One Nation Under a Groove” and “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow.” “Bearers” riffed on the idea of sankofa as the six dancers looked as if they were performing a diasporic traditional ritual but to the sounds of the futuristic group’s music, creating a new ritual of their own. They presented an elegance, grace and power with their hips swiveling, foot stomping, legs kicking and arms twirling.
*For those who will be in Missouri, one of my supporters, Reynaldo Anderson will be having a talk at Missouri History Museum on February 1st, called Afrofuturism: Race, Art and Politics in the Age of Digital Reproduction. Hopefully, the conversation will be recorded and the rest of us can listen to it later.
*The filmmakers of The United States of Hoodoo documentary will continue showcasing the film, including at New York’s BAM Rose Cinemas on February 16 and two screening in Chicago’s Black World Cinema on march 6 and 7. They also plan to release the film online through a few sites like Netflix, Hulu and iTunes. For more info., click here.
*Dance group MUV (Movement for the Urban Village) will premiering their latest performance, Sankofa, at BAM Fisher/Fishman Space on February 23 and 24. Support their Indiegogo page.
*Director Arianna Azzolini is working on a new documentary, The Singing Souls of Buli, about South African rapper, singer and shaman (sangoma) apprentice, Buli, and her journey to speak with her dead mother and meet the dragon in River Orange-senqu in Lesotho. Support the Indiegogo page and watch the trailer below:
*A new facebook group, “Afro-Punk” (not to be confused with the music organization Afropunk) is “dedicated to the production, consumption, support, discussion and deconstruction of speculative creativity originating in Africa and the Diaspora.”
*Co-editors Bill Campbell and Edward Austin Hall are creating their own set of anthologies, Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond. To submit, click here.