Cultural and Historical Studies tutor and founder of the Costume Institute of the African Diaspora (CIAD) Teleica, defines Afrofuturism and introduces a series of creatives that place this philosophy at the heart of their work.
Afrofuturism is a philosophy that looks at the realms of technology, science fiction, aesthetics, mythology and metaphysics of African and African diaspora culture and spirituality. It puts people of African heritage into narratives where they wouldn’t normally feature.
What sets Afrofuturism apart from any other science fiction is the heavy reference of historical African ephemera to develop and enhance the aesthetics and the way these elements are used with modern and futuristic styling. This combined with an interest in outer space and technological advancement along with the use of unusual shapes and colours in clothing and accessories enables any imagery within this genre to be immediately identified as Afrofuturistic. Artist and visionary Sun Ra – who was active from the mid 1950s until his death – used recreations of ancient Egyptian material culture to develop his persona and artistry and was considered the pioneer of of Afrofuturism. With the advent of disco and the use of metallic fabrics and colour ways in fashion design and styling, it became a defining moment when other music bands like Earth Wind & Fire, Parliament Funkadelic and Labelle developed an Afrofuturistic outlook. Today musicians such as Janelle Monae, Erykah Badu, FKA Twigs and Ibeyi to name a few, all adopt an Afrofuturistic look to their styling and video visuals. Below are a few other artists who represent an Afrofuturistic outlook in their work.
Feature image credit: ‘Ilgelunot’ by Osborne Macharia.
Fashion – AphiaSakyi
Credit: @keelsonstudio_ for Aphiasakyi
Based in Ghana, accessories brand Aphiasakyi uses beading and fabric to create incredibly intricate body accessories which are occasionally reminiscent of armour. Each design is a statement piece that really requires the wearer to provide as muted a clothing palette as possible so the accessory may speak for itself. The design of each piece lends itself to afro futurist styling as the use of avant-garde shapes and materials places them in a future focussed and setting where they would not be out of place in any science fiction based environment. In true Afro futuristic style Aphiasakyi has drawn on historically references to design accessories that are simultaneously fashion forward and nostalgic.
To see more designs, head over to the website or follow the brand on Instagram: @aphiasakyi
Cosplay/ Performance – UniverSouls
Credit: Photography by Christin Bela.
Borelson (B4) and Binta Talla are a collaborative duo from Canada and France/Senegal who have put together the UniverSouls project; a science fiction, fantasy and anime influenced project which follows the journey of Emanon X as he attempts to recover his memory and find out who he is. This collaboration between artists who have similar interests, along with their desire to redress the underrepresentation of black people in superhero roles sits strongly within the ethos of Afrofuturism culture and is how the UniverSouls project came to fruition.
Credit: Cyrus Kabiru – ‘Kubwa Macho Nne Tom and Jerry’ (2015) Pigment Ink on HP Premium Satin Photographic Paper 150 x 150 cm Ed 1of 5 2AP. Copyright Cyrus Kabiru, image courtesy of SMAC Gallery.
Bridging the gap between art and fashion is Cyrus Kabiru who has been making wearable art out of the trash and discarded detritus he finds in Nairobi, Kenya where he resides. The use of waste materials in his work is very future focused and speaks to the futuristic dystopian premonitions that have been shown in films like Blade Runner and District 9.