The Nourishment That Comes From Freedom: Afrofuturism as a Critical Praxis of Resistance

Some will scoff at what has perhaps become a cliché assertion for many, but reigns true nonetheless: There is no such thing as coincidence. Things coincide and correspond, but to view such instances as having no causal or even a syncretic connection should be understood as shortsighted, or too much to fathom for our human eyes and minds.


A week before I started my search for courses to take at the start of the 3rd year of my PhD experience, I had a dinner party at my house.

I made a big lasagna, grilled some meat and veggies, bought a few bottles of wine. My girlfriend baked a glorious strawberry-lemon pie, and we invited a small group of friends over.  We had ourselves a good old time.

At one point late in the evening, when the vibes were more mellow and while everyone was eating pie, drinking wine, and engaging in smaller conversations with those nearest them, I decided to take my tarot cards out. 29a42305ad1677ec302081afcbf17d47Something about the way the night had gone, the way the wine was flowing, and the way everyone joked played in a lighthearted way caused me to see the moment.  And I decided to engage the entire mass of people in a group reading.

Each person chose a card. I provided some prompting to ensure the chooser was in the appropriate mental space and had activated at least some of their spiritual faculties, while the group channeled their energy toward the chooser.  Some minds were blown.

The relevance of each reading shocked all of the people that were in my home and, hopefully, provided them with timely insights.  One friend, who was preparing to go on a 6 month trip away from her partner seemed to be ruminating on the card she had pulled and the symbolic meaning of its features.  I noticed that she had become somewhat withdrawn and asked if everything was okay.  The group quieted down and listened as she told us that the messages she’d received through the card had reminded her of stories her father had told her when she was young. Tears were released as she shared a memory of her father teaching her the very same lesson the tarot card had reminded her of.

I poured more wine for those in need and we toasted to her late, great father.  Laughter followed the tears and the night went on.  One and on, we talked and laughed and somehow we eventually landed on the topic of #Afrofuturism.

A Critical Praxis

I had heard the term Afrofuturism before, but I was only vaguely familiar.  From what I understand, Afrofuturism is a cultural form that incorporates science fiction, history, fantasy, magical realism, people of color,  especially folk of the African Diaspora, is #Afrocentric, and served as a vehicle for analyzing and critiquing the experiences of people of color, imagining and reimagining narratives about the past, how we got where we are today, and the future. As such, I recognize the practice of creating works that can be characterized as Afrofuturistic as acts of resistance and healing, part of and in line with critical practices that are intended to support our individual and collective liberation. in_tune_with_the_universe_by_yangzeninjaAnd I dig it!

About a week later, when looking for classes to register for, I came across a course titled, “Aboard the Mothership: Introduction to Afrofuturism.” I saw the connectivity and, of course, I signed up.

Led by Professor Tananarive Due, the course has been a breath of fresh air and has served as a call back to my writing.  Exploring other worlds and dystopian possibilities, challenging race, class, gender and sexuality norms, and doing so through the minds and imaginations of people of color has been an invitation to escape the oppressive nature a world plagued by  White Supremacy, Capitalism, Patriarchy, Heteronormativity, meritocracy, and other ‘glass mountains’ western society is balancing on.

Suddenly, all of the stories I’ve always wanted to tell feel like they can be prioritized.  Like, they will happen.  I’ve even begun to create outlines for them, and at this point I’ve got outlines for 10 stories.  I hope to contribute to works that can liberate, and I’m so ready to do so.  Maybe my next blog will be a first go at it… We’ll see.

For now, I would like to share an artist that I learned about only after joining the Afrofuturism course who has been described as Afrofuturistic, and who creates some beautiful works of art that I have come to appreciate.  Wangechi Mutu is a Kenyan born, New York livin’ artist who once described Afrofuturism as “an aesthetic that uses the imaginative strategies of science fiction to envision alternate realities for Africa and people of African descent.”  Please check her out and enjoy.

Riding Death In My Sleep, by Wangechi Mutu

Here is some of her work.

CRI_97147 A Hundred Lavish Months of Bushwack

Mutu makes her collages on Mylar instead of paper, because it’s plastic surface allows paint to pool rather than absorb into the sheet. This gives a glittering—at times almost grotesquely leprous—sheen to the figures she renders. The figure in One Hundred Lavish Months of Bushwhack appears dressed in festive garments and with an aggressively stance, her stiletto-clad left foot poised to kick. However, if you look closer you will notice blood hemorrhaging from her head and mangled right foot. Mutilated and unstable, she is being held up at her ankle by a small, sinister-looking figure. Mutu has described women as “barometers,” innately vulnerable to the fluctuation of social and cultural norms. Here the vestiges of combat (political, cultural, and perhaps literal) have actually scarred and broken her. Yet Mutu has reconstructed this woman into something elegantly disordered, mythical and powerful, rising up, leaving the viewer to reconsider the notion of the feminine ideal.

-Maura Lynch, MoMa Inside Out, March 28, 2010




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