The Arch. The Ark. The Archive. The Arcane. The Archon. The Architect. The Archangel. The ArchAndroid.
The Chief Holder of a Culture’s Knowledge for Future Recollection.
The Cybernetic Helms(wo)man of the Ship Sailing to a New Horizon.
Last weekend, I attendedSummoning the Archiveat NYU. Attending it inspired me to think of the “archive” in relation to communities of color and Afrofuturism. A few archivists/librarians/curators of color have existed in speculative fiction. For example, remember the bluesman Peter Wheatstraw from Ellison’s Invisible Man who carried discarded blueprints in his cart? How about Akomfrah’s data thief in the Last Angel of History? Or the Puerto-Rican librarian at Columbia University, Nydia Ochoa, who helps Sierra (breaking the rules of the institution as Sierra is not a student) find out more about her cultural heritage in Daniel Jose Older’s Shadowshaper? Or Wanuri Kahiu’s Pumzi, which follows a museum curator who braves the outside world because of her dreams that life can exist out there?
*Afropunk “Feature: Visual Artist AiRich Talks About Her Afrofuturistic and Raw Style:” “My name is AiRich. According to the people who surround me, my photography can work safely in the category of “afrofuturism”. This has mainly to do with the style, the spiritual aspects that others link to my work. I see this as a great compliment, because my style was first developed by an optimistic philosophy that whatever is inside of me can come out. I welcome it, as it is an expression and reflection of my lifestyle, taste, who I am and how I see the world. One of the most recognizable landmarks in my work is that I only make use of Black models, whom in the first instance are not the ideal beauty image requirements in western photography. My approach is conceptual and in the opposite direction, of western photography. Often with a specific story [traditional and non-traditional] or message that I want to say the story is often in the expression, the styling or setting. Most times the story alone is a non-theatrical physical positioning of the model. Whatever comes out, it is always and expression of the culture, myth and reality of the Black people’s truth.”
*CCCADIRoots and Stars: Destiny and Purpose – Pathways to Passion event will be tomorrow at 6:30pm at the Dwyer Cultural Center: “We beckon our most passionate lives in this cross-traditional conversation exploring the concepts of Destiny and Purpose. Marinieves Alba presents a prayer-talk about the Lukumi concept of Ori, a metaphorical bird of destiny and highest purpose that, perched atop each person’s spiritual head, guides us in our flight through life. Joshua Bee Alafia, representing the Buddhist tradition, discusses the power of meditation to achieve greater levels of personal clarity, courage, and a bold allegiance to the sincerity of the heart.” Roots and Stars is CCCADI’s salon series dedicated to exploring Black spiritual genius as expressed in art, practice, and the ritual of everyday life.
*Also tomorrow: Schomburg Center presents conversation, Before 5: Xenobia Bailey and Tammi Lawson, in which the “two will discuss the inspirations to Xenobia’s Reconstruction of Funktional Design: A Design Project for Social, and Economic Urban Redevelopment. The artist will share how the creative wisdom of her family’s history originating crafts skills and a material culture in the aesthetic of funk within small African American and multi cultural communities in Seattle Washington and how the migration to Brooklyn and presently living in Harlem influenced her lifestyle and is the foundation of her education and the principal of her Professional Practice. She will speak of her environment of being raised by self educated parents and extended family members of how they manifested an art form, of humbly living in grace by design, in spite of the set backs of Jim Crow Laws that most hard working African American Families experienced in rural and urban communities.
This will be an afternoon survey of a few examples of the Material Culture of the Visual Aesthetic of Funk: The Dynamic Art of Gracefully Living a Dream in a North American Discriminatory Nightmare. Xenobia will share images of Familiar, but under appreciated references and inspirations from the Designs, Engineering and Inventiveness of the low-income, African American homemakers and domestic workers.”
This is for all the Diesel Funk fans out there and for Women’s History Month!
What legacy are we leaving for others when we dare to dream our special dreams, despite all the limitations that face us or all the naysayers? That is what Madeline McCray aims to answer in her one-woman performance, A Dream to Fly, at the Schomburg Center last Friday, taking on the voice of the first Black women licensed aviatrix, Bessie Coleman.
Beginning with a radio announcement reporting the death of Coleman at the age of 34 from a tragic airplane accident and a eulogy from Ida B. Wells, Coleman is in a limbo state shocked by the untimeliness of her death and wanting to tell her story before she goes. The radio turns into a kind of God-head allowing her to tell it but reminding her that it is time for her to go. McCray inhabits and brings to life Coleman, showing all the facets of her — her strong, independent will and bold personality and the doubtful, lonely side of her that fears she is making a mistake going after this dream so outside of her reality, a daughter of a sharecropper in Texas.
But even with that McCray still gives Coleman in the writing and performance a magnetic charm and hope that you know Coleman will overcome because her spirit searches for something more, to grasp that bright shining star as she says. No person could hold her back search for her dream, not her drunken veteran brother who laughed at the possibility of her being a pilot as she worked as a manicurist in a barbershop, not the lover of her life, Freddie, who wanted to marry her but only if she gave up her dream of flying, not the homesickness she felt as she went to France to become a licensed pilot, and not society who told her to conform to conventions and that her goals did not fit the stereotypes of what a black women should be, that she needed a man, was a man or was an uppity negro because of them. Coleman even declined to filmmakers trying to put her in a box by wanting to make a film, Shadow and Sunshine, which would degrade black people more, and took the backlash when she did. She stood up to all the people who looked at her funny at airplane shows. Coleman always chose the sky, that is where her passion and power lay.
Program interruption: This is my entry for Blogging While Brown scholarship.
My blog, Futuristically Ancient, has been running for a little over two years. I started blogging a couple of years before that as another way to express myself, since I am not much of a talker. As for this blog, I started it after watching a clip of John Akomfrah’s The Last Angel of History; I thought it did a great job of connecting pasts, presents and futures, which was already one of my interests. Later on, I found out about afrofuturism, reigniting my interest in science fiction and fantasy, and declared that as the focus of my blog.
While this blog started as a side things for fun, I do want to be more serious about how to expand it and connect with others. But I am slightly introverted and shy, as Stacia L. Brown said in her post, so networking is not that easy for someone like me. Blogging While Brown, which will be in my home city this year and would be my first time attending, seems like a great opportunity to meet other bloggers and learn from the more advanced and professional bloggers their tricks and techniques, since I am still somewhat of a newbie.
“Aiye Aiye Ft. Eli Efi, V.I., Amma Whatt, For Something & Oloriwaa!” From the Egbe Iwa Odo Kunrin/Brinrin group
I have written before on expanding what we think of as time travel in terms of mental and spiritual time travel. One way that I did not think of until last night’s program at Schomburg Center was the initiation rite. At first mention, an initiate rite does not seem to be in association with time travel or soul adventuring. But as a rite of passage, an initiation rite gives access to ancient wisdom, or at least the wisdom gained from those who came before.
Without stories, we are nothing but shells, only giving others the physical form of ourselves. Stories ground the spirits and forces around us and make them real.
Oya priestess Isoke Nia expressed this sentiment last night at the Schomburg Center in Harlem at the enlightening tribute to the Yoruba orisha, Oya, and writer Octavia Butler. Part of Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute’s Roots and Stars series, Oya and Anyanwu was the first program of what will be a series of five programs for the end of this year and going into early next year. Hosted by program director Desiree Gordon, this year’s theme is “change,” slightly evoking President Obama’s slogan from four years ago. But this was for the divinity of changer herself, Oya, and her manifestation in the works of Octavia Butler.