A huge asteroid strikes Windhoek, right in the middle of Independence Avenue, instantly killing everyone in sight. A survivor named Silas, an Oshiwambo man, searches through all the rubble looking for others, and eventually finds and rescues a ‘Boere meisie’ named Andrea. They are both absolutely shocked, and soon realize they might be the only remaining people in the world. This circumstance forces Andrea to reconsider her pre-asteroid ‘views’.
“How stupid are our human distinctions – now…” she mutters.
Silas and Andrea eventually develop an intimate relationship, and just when things begin to blossom, they encounter a group of white people. They tell her only Windhoek was destroyed, and that the rest of the world remains intact. In an instant, Andrea relapses back into her pre-asteroid life, and instantly runs to her white counterparts. Suddenly he becomes unimportant in her eye, and never looks in his direction again as she departs with her tribe.
If I’ve hooked you in up to now, you’re probably thinking, where am I going with this? Why are you telling me this story?? Truth is, this story is not an original concept, it’s actually a story called “The Comet” written in 1920 by W. E. B. Dubois. I just changed the location aspect to make it more relatable, I guess. W.E.B Dubois is a fantasy poet best known for intermingling science fiction with human nature. Ya’ll should check his work if you have time, but the most important aspect of this story is that it helped lay the foundation for what we now know as Afrofuturism.
When most people think of Afrofuturism they think of the marvel cinematic universe Wakanda. Images of an African country that hides its advanced technology from the western world probably lingers in your mind when you think of Afrofuturism. It is however more than that. Not taking anything away from Black Panther, Afrofuturism has more traditionally lived in niche subgenres of philosophy, literature, music, and aesthetics.
“..visions of the future—including science, technology and its cultures in the laboratory, in social theory, and in aesthetics—through the experience and perspective of African communities.”
In the many forms that Afrofuturism describes, questions are projected about the Black experience into the future.
Musical acts such as Sun Ra and Wave Arising built their looks and sounds on a marriage between Black culture and futuristic elements. For Afrofuturist artists, technology is an essential part of the sound. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and listen to the acid infused video made by Wave Arising below.
Afrofuturist novels in particular offer a unique platform to shed light on Africa’s history. Consider “Kindred” by Octavia Butler, in which a woman is transported from 1970s California to Africa at the height of the slave trade; or Nnedi Okorafor’s “Who Fears Death”, about a woman tormented by her sorcerer father in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic Sudan.
French-Beninese Mawena Yehouessi’s transmedia hub Black(s) to the Future offers a dynamic reflection of art, culture, and literature with the aim of remodelling how the African image is viewed in the world. Africans are taking more prominent spaces in Afrofuturism, sharing new perspectives on how we view ourselves in the future while questioning who we have been in the past, and who we are in the present.
Now you may ask, why should I care about these theories? Why should the thoughts of an Afrofuturist differ from that of an average futurist? The honest answer is because the African experience, or to be more specific, the black experience is defined by a historical struggle for existence. This has been the case for many from the times of slavery to apartheid, all the way again to nowadays forms of institutional racism. Because of this, the Afrofuturist differs from that of the average futurist. The Afrofuturist is able to see parts of the past, present, and future that reside on societies blind spots.
Afrofuturism is not just another way of telling stories. It challenges people to imagine a greater world than the one that currently exists. Linking it all back together, over 100 years since W.E.B. Dubois story we find ourselves in a quiet similar predicament. An “asteroid” carrying disease has caused mass hysteria and socioeconomic unrest all over the world. Afrofuturism may now be more relevant than ever. Its vision can help guide us out of the rubble, thus helping create a better future.