As both a self-contained genre and a movement, afrofuturism is still relatively young. The aesthetics have existed for a long time, but the term itself wasn’t coined until the early 90s. These days, there’s more of a conscious effort to put afrofuturism in the forefront.
Afrofuturism Pre-21st Century
Before a specific genre or word became associated with it, afrofuturism made its presence known. Black artists of all stripes took it upon themselves to mix the past with the future to shine a light on the present.
Before the 21st century, artists pioneered futuristic sounds. New, afrocentric imagery appeared. You likely grew up hearing music containing full afrofuturistic concepts (i.e. George Clinton). Maybe you’ve read a science fiction story featuring predominately black perspectives. Writers created future landscapes that included black people, culture, and other elements associated with the African diaspora.
As the turn of the century approached, more artists started to purposefully create afrofuturistic works. By the end of the 20th century, it was possible to find popular, well-respected artists who proudly displayed their afrofuturistic creations.
Wider forays into afrofuturism created an environment for the genre to thrive and grow as it entered the 21st century. Now, there’s a new era of afrofuturism. It’s both similar to and different from how afrofuturism looked in the past.
Afrofuturism in the 21st Century
The 21st century ushered in new technology, social media, breakthroughs in science, and a larger worldview for most. News travels faster and wider, and people became far more sensitive to other cultures and peoples.
The good, bad, and ugly became something everybody could consume immediately, often in real time. In this boiling pot of culture, news, and ideologies, the questions surrounding the role of black people became even more prevalent.
The Rise of the Afrofuturist
With the ability to spread ideas far more swiftly, a new crop of afrofuturists have come up to join the older adherents in producing conscious material. These individuals make art that challenges stereotypes and provokes thought.
Many artists learned at the knee of afrofuturists of the past, even if they didn’t have a word for what it was they saw and heard. Even more, people are claiming the title of afrofuturist, or letting their fans unequivocally know their work is afrofuturistic in nature.
Additionally, inclusion isn’t diluting the core concepts of afrofuturism. Rather, in this new era, the genre is branching out and becoming more of a super-category instead of a subcategory.
Afrofuturism…in the Future
The world continues to change. The people of color who make up the majority of the world’s population will always have to look at what those changes mean for them. Afrofuturism isn’t going anywhere. It will only grow as both a genre and movement.
The afrofuturists of the future are currently seeing the possibilities and learning more about what it means. They will create future works that deal with their own unique circumstances and conditions. They will combine the past with the future to shine a light on their present.