Afrofuturism — Black to the Future.
Here’s something to consider: “Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces of its history, imagine possible futures?”
Cultural critic Mark Dery posited that difficult question in his 1994 essay “Black to the Future” which examined why there were so few black science fiction writers at the time, given the genre’s inextricable links to otherness and life on the margins. Within Dery’s text, he also coined the term Afrofuturism, an ongoing and ever changing movement over the years that has drawn adherents from a whole spectrum of various arts, all while using techno-utopian thinking of the space age to re-imagine black history, culture, and life in the United States.
The term is familiar to some yet exotic to others, loosely referring to a fusion of ideas ranging from Egyptian and other non-Western mythologies to mysticism, magical realism, modern technology, science fiction, and of course, Afrocentricity. It’s been deemed a “freighted concept in more ways than one” having gained much traction in the past several years by muscling its way into mainstream pop culture through the intertwined worlds of entertainment, art, fashion, and literature.
Just last year, Rihanna channeled an Afrofuturistic vibe as an otherworldly warrior queen don in the splendor of diamonds and foil galore on the September issue of W magazine. Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Beyoncé have similarly adopted futuristic themes in their works, with the latter most recently going all-out astral fantastic with her “Lemonade” album by leading a phalanx of women within an all-female utopia all draped extravagantly in white dresses evoking both ancient and space-age societies.