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A Super Duper Brief Guide to Afrofuturism

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Afrofuturism, black science fiction, black fantasy, Janelle Monae

I had never heard of the Afrofuturism until an episode of This American Life titled “We Are in the Future“.  I was so fascinated by this subject and surprised that it was something I have never hard of or noticed in the black community until now.

Apparently, Janelle Monae is the poster girl of this movement.

What exactly is Afrofuturism?

Afrofuturism, black science fiction, black fantasyThe word Afrofuturism was first coined by Mark Dery in his 1994 essay “Black to the Future”. It is the  expression and examining of the black culture in the past and future through the use of science fiction, magical realism, historical fiction, and fantasy.  

Afrofuturism is all about imagining a bright future for blacks through the use of science fiction. Many have sited what drove them to the movement is the lack of black people in mainstream culture’s take on futurism and science fiction.  

Do we not belong in the future?

How did it get started? 

Afrofuturism, black science fiction, black fantasy, sun raAlthough some would argue that the concept of Afrofuturism was born as early as the 1930s, it really did not start to grow until the 1950s. Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man is credited for being the first piece of literature to examine the black experience in American through the use of Afrofuturism.

Sun Ra, the Jazz musician out of Alabama, is also believed to have contributed one of the first pieces of work in music to the movement in the 1950s.  Ra also wrote the Afrofuturist movie Space is the Place in 1972. The movie’s plot revolves around Sun Ra’s efforts to settle blacks on a planet in outer space.

Afrofuturism, black science fiction, black fantasy Some of the players in the movement 

  • Octavia Estelle Butler– Butler has contributed tremendously to the movement by addressing issues like the creation of alternative communities.  She is the first science fiction writer to receive the MacAruther Fellowship in 1995.
  • Ytasha Womack– Author of Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture, is a major force in the movement.  Womack contributes through not just writing but filmmaking and dance.
  • Janelle Monae– The most famous face in modern Afrofuturims, Monae embodies the movement through every aspect of her image.
  • Afrofuturism, black science fiction, black fantasy, Janelle Monae Jean-Michel Basquiat- The American painter examined topics such as segregation, poverty, and the future of Africanism in his work.
Afrofuturism, black science fiction, black fantasy

Scull (1981)

So there you have it! That was your super duper brief guide to Afrofuturism. I highly recommend listening to the episode of This American Life, “We are in the Future“.

Got any thought on the movement, let us know below.