Hey everyone! I am back after taking a short needed break. Last week marked the third year that I have been running this blog! Yay! Happy Anniversary!
Today I return to highlight a few writers I found out about after reading Bilphena Yahwon’s post on Africa Is Done Suffering, “The Writers I Never Learned About.” In this post, Yahwon writes about mainstream literary establishments and education systems lack of inclusion of black women writers in their canons. Her pieces is an addition to a growing critique of these institutions, like Junot Diaz’s “MFA vs. POC” and “We Need Diverse Books Campaign.” Besides listing writers I already knew, she did include ones I did not know as well and wanted to show their work here. The two women and their books I want to feature are Nigerian writers and activists Catherine Acholonu and Molara Ogundipe.
Dr. Acholonu, who passed away in March, was a essayist, playwright, poet and published several books of her own anthropological and scientific research into African cultures, specifically Igbo, and gender studies. Some of her books include “The Gram Code of African Adam: Stone Books and Cave Libraries, Reconstructing 450,000 Years of Africa’s Lost Civilizations, which earned her the award of Professor of African History and Philosophy from Pilgrim’s University and Theological Seminary, North Carolina; The Earth Unchained – A Quantum Leap in Consciousness, A Reply to Al Gore; Motherism – The Afrocentric Alternative to Feminism and The Igbo Roots of Olaudah Equiano”
The Gram Code of African Adam is the first book in her African Adam series and explores the history behind the ancient stone inscriptions of Ikom, Cross River State, Nigeria and contributions of ancient Africans to the world in that they possessed systems of writing. The sequel to the book, They Lived Before Adam, delved into prehistoric origins of the Igbo and that “Igbo oral tradition is consistent with scientific research into the origins of humanity.” She said in a lecture at a Harlem book fair, “Igbo oral traditions confirm the findings of geneticists, that by 208000BC – 208000 BC – human evolution was interrupted and Adam, a hybrid, was created through the process of genetic engineering. However, our findings reveal that the creation of Adam was a downward climb on the evolutionary ladder, because he lost his divine essence, he became divided, no longer whole, or wholesome. All over Africa and in ancient Egyptian reports, oral and written traditions maintain that homo erectus people were heavenly beings, and possessed mystical powers such as telepathy, levitation, bi-location, that their words could move rocks and mountains and change the course of rivers. Adam lost all that when his right brain was shut down by those who made him.”
Her last book and last book of the series, “The Lost Testament of the Ancestors of Adam: Unearthing Heliopolis/Igbo Ukwu – The Celestial City of the Gods of Egypt and India,” theorizes West Africa as a place of origin for other Eastern cultures, like Egyptian culture and hieroglyphs.
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*”Don’t Blame Science Fiction for Hollywood’s Race Problem:” “And there’s a decent amount of it these days, because the post-millennial resurgence in Afrofuturism has been one of the more fascinating and welcome developments of the last decade or so. This trend been written about a fair amount in relation to music — the most prominent example is Janelle Monáe and her ArchAndroid mythos, but there’s also the hyperspace hip hop of Flying Lotus and Deltron 3030 and the more esoteric work of acts like Ras G and the Afrikan Space Program, whose most recent album, Back On the Planet, was one of the under-appreciated joys of last year.
You hear less about an Afrofuturist revival in film and literature, but if there’s not been a resurgence in other areas of pop culture, it might be because, hey, Afrofuturism never really went away. Octavia Butler was writing right up until her death in 2006, and produced as rich a body of work as any of her white male contemporaries. And once you start digging, there’s a wealth of writing that addresses the future from the perspective of people of color, from the reasonably well-known to the fascinatingly obscure.”
*”Star Wars and the 4 Ways Science Fiction Handles Race:” How science fiction uses metaphor, tokenism, diversity and explicit dealing with racial issues to handle race.
Social Death, Wounded Transformations and The Hauntings of Prophetic Tradition :
Tomorrow is Christmas and one story that came to mind in relation to afrofuturism, and especially after I watched Arthur Jafa’s Dreams Are Colder than Death, was Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and the story’s ghosts of past, present and future.
In the Western imagination, blackness, darkness and Africa (Heart of Darkness) to an extent has represented a kind of social and metaphorical death. For example, Edgar Allen Poe’s tropes of blackness and darkness representing death and evil in works like “The Raven” (the animal also representing the antithesis of the “human” in western construction) and his lesser known novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Even today, we still see the pervasiveness of it, such as Justine Sacco‘s tweet about Africa and aids, reinforcing the implication that Africa as a whole is a wasteland, a place of death only, or even ghettos across America where they are only viewed through lens of crime and death.
But that imagination also be observed within the diaspora as well. Jafa mentioned in the discussion after the film that in one particular West African indigenous group, if certain children were past the point of initiation, they were not able to be reclaimed and thus were left in the woods to die. He asked how did that relate to the diaspora; are we the monsters in the woods, the dark big bad wolf in a sense. Jafa emphasized that this was something we need to address to heal.
I found out about this band some time ago and also just found out that Spoek Mathambo said in an interview they were one of his favorite groups. The Brother Moves On are also from Johannesburg, South Africa. They describe their group as “The ghost inside the magic, the stranglers of an innocent idea of bringing performance art to its knees through costume, music and storytelling. A playful site specific collaborative piece of performance art in the form of a band based in Johannesburg. The name of this collective is derived from David Simons ‘The Wire’ character Brother Mouzone, meaning “judicious” in Arabic, a transient assassin with that audacious yet sincere difference.” You can listen to their two EPs, The Golden Wake and ETA, here.
What are the spiritual and physical consequences of us not studying the spiritual and magic systems of the African Diaspora in depth? This is one question amongst several explored in the British documentary film, Ancestral Voices: Esoteric African Knowledge. Premiering in New York City last Saturday at the New York African Diaspora International Film Festival, the film delves into several African and African-American spiritual systems that are often demonized, misrepresented or lack attention in comparison to more mainstream religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
Filmmakers Verona Spence and Dalian Adofo made this film as a way to educate people on these systems and ancestral knowledge, and interviewed a variety of artists, intellectuals, and spiritual leaders and practitioners, and participants. The interviewees provided a vast amount of knowledge about not only the recurring themes in African and Afro-diapsoric spiritual systems, but also specific elements in different ones, including Egyptian Kemetic, Yoruba, Gabon’s Iboga ritual, The Sky God Tree story of the Akan in Ghana, Caribbean Obeah, Haitian Vodou, Cuban and Puerto Rican Santeria and Brazilian Candomble.
Professor, author and cultural analyst Louis Chude-Sokei speaks in his lecture, “When Echoes Return: Roots, Diaspora and Possible Africas (A Eulogy).” The lecture centers on the death of South African reggae singer Lucky Dube and how the fantasy of a singular Africa in roots reggae music has been both a dangerous space and a space for possibility for people in Africa.
Also, Chude-Sokei said later in the lecture that “there’s nothing more important than fantasy. Without fantasy, you don’t have politics. Without fantasy, you don’t have reality.” Thoughts?
Although Afro-futurism doesn’t have one clear-cut definition, for the purpose of this article we’ll go with the one that defines it as a study of science-fiction themes with particular emphasis on the way advances in technology will affect the Black – that is African diasporic – experience. Afro-futurism is a response to any imagined future that excludes Black people, perspectives from Black culture, as well as African history, artists and writers, and those invested in Afro-futurism are attempting to include and represent Black people in the future as they imagine it.
The first person to use the term was apparently Mark Dery, who defined Afro-futurism as “speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of 20th century technoculture – and more generally, African-American signification that appropriates images of technology and a prosthetically enhanced – might, for want of a better term, be called ‘Afro-futurism’.” Afro-futuristic fashion, literature and music boomed especially in the 70s and 80s, envisioning a brighter future for oppressed people.
Nonetheless, Afro-futurism is still an emerging genre, so there isn’t that much information about the subject out there, and what there is is scattered all over the place. Most of the discussions on the subject posit Afro-futurism as solely relating to the African-American experience. However, with the growing interest in the place of science fiction in Africa, and in the way Africans imagine themselves in the future, Afro-futurism is slowly being looked at from the African perspective as well….
Read the rest here.
In relation to my earlier post on the museum trip I went on, I am posting this lecture about an exhibition on the portrayal of Africa and science fiction. The lecturers discuss how Africa is used as a backdrop in some science fiction work and also its place in the science and speculative fiction world.
Superpower: Africa in Science Fiction surveys the recent tendency for artists and filmmakers to apply the forms and concerns of science fiction to narratives situated in the African continent. It considers the complex undercurrents for this occurrence in art today, and posits other and possible realities existing simultaneously, via careful re-orientations of tense; elevating the need for vigilance towards the present and future over a concern for the past.
Africa has had a rare yet distinct place in popular science-fiction, from the opening scenes of Stanley Kubrick’s iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey, depicting the mysterious appearance of a black monolith in the cradle of civilization, to the recent success of Neill Blomkamp’s debut movie District 9, a multi-layered allegory on South Africa’s recent internal and external tensions. Imagining a new space-time to the typical “third worldist” representations of the African continent, caught in a perpetual state of crisis, the works in Superpower project an alternative landscape of possibilities.
Works include Neïl Beloufa’s compelling video installation Kempinski (2007), a ‘science fiction documentary’ (pictured). In it, a series of short monologues given by inhabitants across Mali describe their visions of the future – from telepathic communication to teleportation – as if they were present realities. Turning the monuments and mausoleums of a failed communism into spaceships, Kiluanji Kia Henda’s series of photographs Icarus 13 (2006) document the preparations for the first ever expedition to the sun led by the Angolan government. Wanuri Kahiu’s film Pumzi (2010), set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, follows a scientist’s quest to regenerate biological life literally underneath a repressive subterranean Nairobi culture.
Gusmão and Paiva film the world as if for the first time, producing an “alien theory” of moments in 16mm, while Mark Aerial Waller’s Superpower – Dakar Chapter (2004), colliding times and video formats, uses TV soap actors from the Senegalese capital as astronomers awaiting a future event. The exhibition also includes garlanded South African movie director Neill Blomkamp’s early short films and Omer Fast’s three-part installation Nostalgia (2009), which reconfigures document and dramatization, past and future. Superpower will be reflexive of the ever-ubiquitous exhibition format of the regional or national showcase, foregrounding the modes of representation rather than considering the artist as a regional representative.
Whilst holding up a mirror to Eurocentrism in the contemporary world, more significantly here, the model of science fiction offers speculative viewpoints on Africa that supersede the necessity of recourse to essentialisms and history. Also avoiding such genres as Afro-futurism, which located the means of producing the future amongst the African diaspora specifically, Superpower: Africa in Science Fiction presents works by artists based across the European and African continents that raise a number of questions around the position of Africa in the collective conscience – actively participating in the battle to represent the future.
Revolution: From the latin words, re + volvere, volgere, which means to roll back, turn back around or return.
During my Art of the Other (Black and Latino Art) class, I found out about Lois Mailou Jones, a Harlem Renaissance artist. I came across, a few days ago, her painting “The Ascent of Ethiopia.” In this 1932 painting, Jones traces the journey of Black people from the Egyptian/Ethiopian culture to the Harlem Renaissance in New York City. Jones appreciation of the African Diasporic culture increased after she met Haitian graphic artist, Louis Vergniaud Pierre-Noël, who would be her future husband. Besides completing works based on the African–American culture, including portraits and collage paintings of well-known figures like Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes and Carter G. Woodson, her paintings included works with influences from African culture, such as in “Les Fetiches,” “Ode to Kinshasa,” “Africa,” “Initiation Liberia,” and “Ubi Girl From Tai Region,” and Haitian culture, in “Peasant Girl, Haiti,” “Voodou Symbols” (page 3), and “Veve Voodou III.”
I like the space-age look of this painting