Tag Archives: Mark Dery

What Is Afrofuturism? Part 11: Cosmic Yoruba

Photo- Leeroy Jason

Cosmic Yoruba wrote a piece on Afrofuturism from various African perspectives. Read an excerpt of “’We’ve Been to the Moon and Back:’ Afro-futurism in Music” and the rest at This Is Africa:

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.


Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth: SIUE Notebook

The SIUE (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville) Black Studies program has a blog dedicated to various topics, including Afrofuturism. Below is their collection of posts on the topic:

A Notebook on Afrofuturism

Mark Dery coined the term “afrofuturism” in 1993, and during the late 1990s, Alondra Nelson began shaping a wide-ranging series of conversations that developed the uses and understandings of the concept. “AfroFuturism has emerged as a term of convenience to describe analysis, criticism and cultural production that addresses the intersections between race and technology,” she wrote. “Neither a mantra nor a movement, AfroFuturism is a critical perspective that opens up inquiry into the many overlaps between technoculture and black diasporic histories.”

The following entries include my blog writings about afrofuurism.

• July 21: Afrofuturism & the collectively-authored annotated bibliography  
• April 29: The Transformative Possibilities of Black Poetry  
• April 8: Placing the Back Channel Up Front at Black Thought 2.0
• April 8: Mark Anthony Neal Shares His Audience 
• April 8: Broadcasting & Tweeting a Black Studies Conference
• April 8: Toward a History of Black Digital Intellectual Histories
• April 8: Notes on Black Thought 2.0
• March 24: #TrayvonMartin & Afrofuturism
• February 13: Past-future visions & Afrofuturism
• February 12: Audio recordings of African American poets
• February 9: Black Studies2.0: An Exhibit 
• February 7: Mixed Media exhibits
• February 6: The Interactive Reading Group
• February 5: The Black Studies Blog
• February 4: Black Studies and Listening Devices
• February 3: Black Studies @ SIUE and Graphic Design
• February 2: Black Studies @ SIUE and Music
• February 2: The Malcolm X Mixtape 
• February 1: Black Studies @ SIUE and Afrofuturism
• February 1: 28 Ways of Thinking about Black Studies & Afrofuturism
• January 14: Studying Afrofuturism vs. Keeping it 100
• January 10: Afrofuturism & Poetry Course Description

• September 27: Black Arts Poetry & Afrofuturism
• September 2: Some Background Readings on Afrofuturism
• August 31: 1999-2000: Discovering The Intuitionist, The Boondocks & Afrofuturism
• August 14: The Slow Hunch: Notations on Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From
• June 19: Black Book Trailers & Publishing History: Scott Poulson-Bryant’s The VIPs
• June 18: Toward an Afrofuturist Approach to Examining Literary Texts
• June 6: Alondra Nelson & Afrofuturism
• June 6: Mark Anthony Neal’s Multiple Approaches To Composition 
• April 26: How Major Writers Become Legendary on Twitter 
• March 31: Colson Whitehead Novel on Twitter 

• November 1: Top 10 Reasons for Re-Reading The Intuitionist   

Moving on the Wires: Black to the Future Series

Tempestt Hazel, curator of The Future’s Past exhibition and executive director of the Chicago Arts Archive: A Sixty Inches From Center Project is doing a series on Afrofuturism and Afrosurrealism. Two of her first interviewees were visual artist Krista Franklin and Afrosurrealist creator D. Scott Miller. This is the beginning of Franklin’s interview:

What is AfroFuturism and AfroSurrealism?  The art historian in me finds it exciting to be in the middle of a rapidly advancing movement that is all at once undefined but unmistakable in presence, expanding and unfolding, and setting the tone for new waves in art, music, fashion and cultural production at all levels. The chapters of most art history textbooks I’ve come across have made it clear: our understanding of art and how it fits into a historical context is often shaped by historian-identified movements that are pinpointed late in the game or in hindsight. With these things in mind, I have borrowed the title of cultural critic Mark Dery’s essay to create the Black To The Future Series–a series of interviews that pose questions to several artists who have identified their work as AfroFuturist and/or AfroSurreal with the hopes of allowing the practitioners to be at the center of determining what it is.

Though the philosophies behind these movements have been around for quite some time and at the heart of some circles for nearly a century, AfroFuturism and the AfroSurreal have increasingly gained momentum in the last decade or so.  They seem to have found new nourishment through artists who have stepped forward to add fresh stems and leaves to the roots established by legends such as Amiri Baraka, Sun Ra and countless other foremothers and forefathers. This has resulted in the conceptually abysmal and beautifully rendered work landing on radar of larger institutions, being the subject of exploration by some noted art theorists, and being woven into the fabric of major exhibitions. 

But the truth of any artistic movement and what makes this moment one to be savored, in my opinion, is an age-old one. Movements don’t start on the walls of museums. They begin on the ground with electrifying dialogue in intimate spaces, on the walls of homes, studios and off-the-radar galleries, and during the of off-the-cusp performances by those pushing new limits, exploring new territories and attempting to capture the transcendental at the edge of comprehension.  Chicago is rich in this right now if you know where to look

Read the rest of Krista Franklin’s interview

Read D. Scott Miller’s interview

What Is Afrofuturism?

“Curator Ingrid LaFleur is a world traveler. She is an art advisor and curator whose work has taken her to the far reaches of the globe. She has traveled South America, Africa and Europe to make visual art more accessible to people who don’t generally experience the arts from around the globe. As an advocate for the support of artists and the arts Ingrid co-founded several initiatives to bring local contemporary artists to areas where the arts rarely flourish.” (Source: TEDx youtube page)

In this TED Talk, LaFleur wants to highlight Afrofuturism and discusses the visual aesthetics of Afrofuturism. Coined by Mark Dery in 1994 essay “Black to the Future,” LaFleur speaks about how Afrofuturistic artists, writers, musicians use their work to imagine possible futures and alternative worlds through “black cultural lens,” mixing the past, present and future. Afrofuturism allows for experimentation, re-imagining of identities, and actively working towards liberation. In November, LaFleur will be curating her own exhibition in Pittsburgh on Afrofuturism, called “My Mythos,” featuring artists Ayanah Moor, Alisha Wormsley, D. Denenge Akpem, Krista Franklin, and Staycee Pearl. For more on Afrofuturism, read this interview with artist and educator D. Denenge Akpem.