Afrofuturism: as it relates to the past and a reclamation of that past.
Afrofuturism not as it relates to the future but as it relates to the past and a reclamation of that past.
I have been drawn to the idea of Afrofuturism for a while. However, I only saw its uses in terms of the arts and how society chooses to express life through the arts. I never imagined that the core ideas underpinning futurism could be applicable to our choices of how we live out our days. Not to mention that the basic tenets of futurism have lead to impactful revolutions in the past.
You can clearly see the distinction of how I speak about futurism now vs how I understood it before, by reading this short post here: a shout out to the future.
My new understanding has been reframed by some of Greg Tate’s teachings. He taught a class in Afrofuturism at Brown University for 5 years and now continues sharing his knowledge in less formal spaces.
When I think of futurism now, I see it in terms of freedom. Freedom regarding the past, present and future. The idea that the past can inspire a certain future. Contrary to popular belief, the past is neither absolute truth, nor constant. It is continuously unfolding, changing and re-presenting itself.
Our perceptions of the world around us and this activity we call life, frames the past. This means that what believe to be true about the past today, could very well be different tomorrow as we re-examine, unlearn and sometimes (most times), distort that history.
“….human consciousness, human psychology, human intellect, human language, human speech, polyphonic and polyrhythmic music, religion, feminism, psychedelics, stargazing, trance religion, painting, plant domestication, cooking, hiking, marathon walking and ethnic interbreeding”…..these are some of the ideas whose history reveal a story of how modern humans developed. All of these being the Khoi San’s major contributions to the future of all humanity. Our relationship and knowledge of each of these is constantly changing, it is impacting our understanding of the systems through which we organise life.
Part of futurism is the notion of being led by the spirit, living by doing what is guided in you. As James Baldwin put it:
“You have to go the way your blood beats. If you don't live the only life you have, you won't live some other life, you won't live any life at all.”
This speaks to claiming so much freedom for yourself that you do not exist within constructs. Claiming so much freedom for yourself that you are guided only by your neurology. This means that your views on religion, love, gender, success, meaning, relationships, space, time, history, emotions, matter…..life, are all fluid, adjusting and changing as you evolve.
When you think of people like Nat Turner, Martin Delany, Harriet Tubman, Steve Biko, Winnie Mandela, Wancgechi Mutu, you start to get an idea of what a futuristic existence could look like. These are people who not only created the future but embodied it. Artists like Chiko Chazunguza & Goncalo Mabunda are, for me, the current representations of futuristic thinking through a deep understanding and interaction with the historical.
In a world where the black body is a performing body, these ideas of freedom, self expression and self actualisation are even more important. It is interesting to think about futurism hand in hand with the decolonisation project. As we let go of old ideas, structures and beliefs, we will need to reimagine a new future…a new existence. I truly believe that some of the principles of futurism could indeed be useful in discussions of what a decolonized existence could look like.