What Is Afrofuturism? A Quick Explanation

The term Afrofuturism is linked to Mark Dery who coined it in his 1994 article “Black to the Future.” He defined it as

“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.”

The term only managed to classify a concept that had been around for so long. Sun Ra, a famed jazz musician, composer and bandleader is often the first name that comes to mind when describing the term Afrofuturism because of his fantastical aesthetic, ideas, and space-themed music.

Fast forward to May 18, 2010. Janelle Monae’s Archandroid album is released and immediately the artistic representation of Afrofuturism has evolved for all to see and hear. This intensively creative work manages to capture Afrofuturism in its full form with Monae’s story centered around the future and a messianic android.

Afrofuturism_Janelle Monáe - The ArchAndroid
Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid

From art to music to writings, Afrofuturism does not conform to a single medium. Rather, it seeks to celebrate black culture far from the usual depiction of pain, suffering, and retelling of stories about slavery.

2018 has seen the release of Black Panther, a Marvel Studios movie based on the 1966 comic character of the same name created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The movie features a dominantly black cast, Ryan Coogler (a black director) and Ruth Carter (a black costume designer) and tells the story of an African prince turned superhero king. This dominance of people of African descent in huge roles has been virtually unheard of in Hollywood and the commercial success of the movie has brought Afrofuturism into the spotlight with even greater intensity.

Defining Afrofuturism

So, away from Mark Dery’s definition, what really is Afrofuturism? As some describe, it is the merging of Afrocentrism with science fiction, historical fiction, magic realism, and fantasy. But what makes Afrofuturism so different is its separation from colonizer influences, choosing only to center itself in black culture.

Artists such as Lina Iris Viktor and Cyrus Kabiru create pieces that transcend the norm, with Afrofuturism and blatant African pride visibly shining throughout their work.

Afrofuturism_Cyrus Kabiru - Spectacles
created by Cyrus Kabiru

Afrofuturism is a lifestyle for some. The celebration of black culture in its entirety away from the prejudice and bias of colonizers makes the movement a powerhouse in its own right. Embracing the future now by rising above the age-old depiction of slavery and the fight for freedom is the concept of Afrofuturism at its best.

What is Afrofuturism? Afrofuturism is the merging of black culture in every aspect of creativity to show the power of a culture long despised. Afrofuturism is the embracing of the future in a race of people that has been confined to the present and the past. Most of all, Afrofuturism is the expression of the minds that revel in the creation of art, music, poems, movies, and books that explore black culture outside the confines of colonizer influence. Afrofuturism is the black renaissance of the 21st-century.

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