Afrofuturism  

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"I'm gonna send him to outa space, to find another race."--"Chase the Devil" (1976) by Max Romeo


"Afrofuturist ideas were taken up in 1975 by George Clinton and his bands Parliament and Funkadelic with his magnum opus Mothership Connection and the subsequent The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein, P-Funk Earth Tour, Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome, and Motor Booty Affair. In the thematic underpinnings to P-Funk mythology ("pure cloned funk"), Clinton in his alter ego Starchild spoke of "certified Afronauts, capable of funkitizing galaxies." --Sholem Stein

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Afrofuturism is an emergent literary and cultural aesthetic that combines elements of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, Afrocentricity, and magic realism with non-Western cosmologies in order to critique not only the present-day dilemmas of people of color, but also to revise, interrogate, and re-examine the historical events of the past. Examples of seminal afrofuturistic works include the novels of Samuel R. Delany and Octavia Butler; the canvases of Jean-Michel Basquiat and artwork of Pedro Bell; as well as the extraterrestrial mythos of Parliament-Funkadelic, Lee Perry, Sun Ra and Detroit techno, and the recombinant sonic texts of DJ Spooky.

Closely related is black science fiction.

Contents

History

The afrofuturist approach to music was first propounded by the late Sun Ra. Born in Alabama, Sun Ra's music coalesced in Chicago in the mid-1950s, when he and his Arkestra began recording music that drew from hard bop and modal sources, but created a new synthesis which also used afrocentric and space-themed titles to reflect Ra's linkage of ancient African culture, specifically Egypt, and the cutting edge of the Space Age. Ra's film Space Is the Place shows the Arkestra in Oakland in the mid-1970s in full space regalia, with a lot of science fiction imagery as well as other comedic and musical material.

Afrofuturist ideas were taken up in 1975 by George Clinton and his bands Parliament and Funkadelic with his magnum opus Mothership Connection and the subsequent The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein, P Funk Earth Tour, Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome, and Motor Booty Affair. In the thematic underpinnings to P-Funk mythology ("pure cloned funk"), Clinton in his alter ego Starchild spoke of "certified Afronauts, capable of funkitizing galaxies."

In the late 1990s a number of cultural critics, notably Mark Dery in his 1995 essay Black to the Future, began to write about the features they saw as common in African-American science fiction, music and art. Dery dubbed this phenomenon “afrofuturism”.

In Black to the Future, Dery writes:

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 future—might, for want of a better term, be called Afrofuturism.

African-American culture is Afrofuturist at its heart, literalizing [the SF novelist William] Gibson’s cyberpunk axiom, “The street finds its own uses for things.” With trickster elan, it retrofits, refunctions, and willfully misuses the technocommodities and science fictions generated by a dominant culture that has always been not only white but a wielder, as well, of instrumental technologies.

According to the cultural critic Kodwo Eshun, British journalist Mark Sinker was theorizing a form of Afrofuturism in the pages of The Wire, a British music magazine, as early as 1992 in his essay “Loving The Alien—Black Science Fiction” [1].

Afrofuturist ideas were incubated and elaborated on the eponymous list-serve established by Alondra Nelson in 1998.

Writers

Film and television

Film

Music

Afro-electro, space funk

The afrofuturist approach to music was first propounded by the late Sun Ra. Born in Alabama, Sun Ra's music coalesced in Chicago in the mid-1950s, when he and his Arkestra began recording music that drew from hard bop and modal sources, but created a new synthesis which also used afrocentric and space-themed titles to reflects Ra's linkage of ancient African culture, specifically Egypt, and the cutting edge of the Space Age. Ra's film Space Is the Place shows the Arkestra in Oakland in the mid-1970s in full space regalia, with a lot of science fiction imagery as well as other comedic and musical material.

Afrofuturist ideas were taken up in 1976 by George Clinton and his bands Parliament and Funkadelic with his magnum opus Mothership Connection and the subsequent The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein and P Funk Earth Tour. In the thematic underpinnings to P-Funk mythology ("pure cloned funk"), Clinton in his alter ego Starchild spoke of "certified Afronauts, capable of funkitizing galaxies."

In 2005, Solstice, a progressive jazz-rock band lead by Public Enemy (band) guitarist, Khari Wynn, under the stage name of "James Equinox" introduced a jazz-rock evolution to the Afrofuturist style. This modern interpretation remains true to the pace set by Sun Ra, including a "revolving door" of musicians.

Acid rap also often deals with Afrofuturist subject matter. In 2000, Deltron 3030 rapper Deltron Zero (aka Del tha Funkee Homosapien) would refer to similar themes with lyrics about "intergallactic rap battles" and a computer virus that could "trash your whole computer system and revert you to papyrus".

Musicians

Visual Arts

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Afrofuturism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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