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Afrofuturism

Afrofuturism

Afrofuturismo: spazi, corpi, immaginari, estetiche, pensiero dell’afrotopia. di Cristina Lombardi-Diop

afrofuturismo
Afrofuturismo:
spazi, corpi, immaginari, estetiche, pensiero dell’afrotopia
di Cristina Lombardi-Diop

L’afrofuturismo è un’astro/nave che dal presente viaggia nel tempo alla ricerca di possibili mondi a venire. Pratica artistica delle utopie future, l’afrofuturismo usa la fantascienza come mezzo politico “per riprogrammare il presente” [1].
Al centro dell’afrofuturismo c’è un sapere afrocentrico, radicale, anticoloniale che è anche alla base dei movimenti rivoluzionari panafricanisti e dell’intellettualità afro-atlantica, da W.E.B. DuBois e R.L.C. James al Black Panther Party, e da Léopold Sédar Senghor e Aimé Césaire a Patrick Lumumba e Frantz Fanon.
Negli Stati Uniti, l’immaginario è quello “in the deep” delle culture soniche nere e urbane di città come Detroit e Chicago, che agli inizi degli anni Settanta stavano scivolando verso il deserto urbano della post-industrializzazione ed erano, apparentemente, senza futuro. Da qui l’afrofuturismo emerge e si esprime attraverso le forme underground della cultura nera vernacolare nel suono funk psichedelico e nelle copertine e i vinili di George Clinton e dei Parliament-Funkadelic – che immaginano la mitica Atlantis in fondo all’oceano, per un’intera “nation under a groove” [2] – senza dimenticare che l’immaginario afro-tecnologico arrivava già dalle esplorazioni soniche e visive extraterrestri del jazz di Sun Ra e della sua band Arkestra.
In letteratura, la sensibilità afrofuturista genera visioni alternative di imperi post-apocalittici nei romanzi Samuel R. Delany e di progenie cosmiche nelle narrazioni fantascientifiche di Octavia Butler, dove esseri nascono da incroci tra umani e insetti, tra umani e vegetali, alludendo alla possibilità di nuovi mondi post-umani e post-razzialiabitati da soggettività e corpi transgender e afro-queer.
Nel nuovo millennio, tale sensibilità trova espressione nel lavoro di artiste afrofemministe che decolonizzano l’immaginario sessuale e razziale dell’America contemporanea, come Renee Cox, il cui Cristo nero, la Regina Nanny, e le super-eroine e i super-eroi Super-J e Super-UT sono tutti militanti neri in fuga dall’oblio della storia e dalla violenza degli stereotipi che consegnano inevitabilmente il corpo nero alla frusta, al linciaggio, al terrore o ad una produttività fisica e sessuale primordiale. Filosofia della disalineazione, l’afrofuturismo libera l’immaginazione dal cerchio alienante del passato, verso una versione del Sublime in cui il terrore e la bellezza diventano tecnologie dell’io creativo.

Fuggiasche sono anche le fragili e fantasmagoriche silhouette di Kara Walker o la progenie delle donne africane incinta annegate durante il Middle Passage che generano i nuovi abitanti di Black Atlantis, capaci di respirare nel fondo dell’oceano. Frutto di leggende afrofuturiste nate a Detroit dalla mente del duo techno-electro Drexciya e dell’artista Abu Qadim Haqq, resuscitate nel film di Simon Rittmeier, Drexciya (2012), e nel corto di Akosua Adoma Owusu dallo stesso titolo, gli abitanti di Black Atlantis ritornano come presenze spettrali post-apocalittiche nei corpi dei naufraghi sub-sahariani nel film-saggio di Ayesha Hameed, Black Atlantis Retrograde Futurism (2016). Il ventunesimo secolo spinge l’immaginario afrofuturista fuori dall’oscurità della cultura underground fino alla totale visibilità di star come Beyoncé e di social media quali Instagram e Twitter, dove le voci @#Afrofuturism e @Inkrayable_girafe raccolgono migliaia di membri e followers.
Se la cosmogonia afrofuturista degli anni Settanta ritorna al passato attraverso la psichedelia nera, commistione di spiritualità subsahariana ed egittologia, oggi i neri di Chicago si immergono nella pratica del Kemetic yoga. Alternativa afrocentrica all’antico sistema di illuminazione e meditazione profonda dello yoga indiano, il metodo Kemetic lavora semioticamente interpretando gli geroglifici di Kemet (l’antico Egitto) e adottando le posizioni che sono chiaramente raffigurate sulle pareti dei templi egizi. Visionarità futura di ritorno, alla Sun Ra, l’Egitto come ‘ancient future’, il Kemetic yoga è sia una pratica mistica sia una pratica di resistenza contro la tossicità della segregazione e della violenza urbana.

L’immaginario afrofuturista si consolida nel mainstream americano con il blockbuster Black Panther. Ma alle sue spalle vi è una visione della futuribilità del passato africano che scorre profonda nella cultura nera da generazioni. Dietro il successo del film di Ryan Coogler, infatti, non c’è solo il commentario afropolitico di Ta-Nehisi Coates e la sua versione (A Nation Under Our Feet) del fumetto omonimo, ma l’immaginazione del duo della Marvel Comics, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, che inserirono la pantera nera tra i Fantastici 4 proprio nel 1966, a pochi mesi di distanza dalla fondazione del Black Panther Party. Vi è inoltre tutta una genealogia che affonda le radici in quel processo di decolonizzazione del sapere che si esprime attraverso una contronarrazione della produttività tecnocratica occidentale. Negli scenari attuali, contro i nuovi ‘imperi’ cibernetici che sfruttano le risorse minerarie dell’Africa centrale per estrarre preziosi minerali, quali il coltan, Wakanda rappresenta un modello di autonomia e perfettibilità tecnologica contro lo sfruttamento predatorio del capitale globale.
L’Africa non più dipendente dal futuro dell’Europa, ma generatrice di futuro. L’Africa al centro dell’arte, della cultura, dell’epistemologia del ventunesimo secolo, quindi. Termini come ‘ancestrale’ e ‘tribale’, che in Europa e in Italia appaiono ancora intrisi di un immaginario coloniale non ancora destrutturato, sono invece reclamati come centrali nell’immaginario afrocentrico degli artisti afrofuturisti.
Reclamata come fonte di ispirazione e di infinite risorse spirituali, visive e tecnologiche, L’Africa appare come il riflesso della coscienza collettiva dell’intera diaspora nera. Sul continente, l’immaginario afrofuturista si materializza nelle arti visive attraverso la fotografia, il design, la moda per proporre una visione dell’Africa alternativa agli stereotipi dominanti che la vedono senza un futuro, complicando il rapporto tra tecnologia, consumismo, cultura materiale, e produzione dal basso e allontanadosi dal paradigma nordamericano.
Demistificando l’Eldorado occidentale e il suo imperialismo culturale, l’afrofuturismo approda in Europa attraverso la voce degli europei afrodiscendenti, offrendo una vera rivoluzione epistemica, quel che il filosofo senegalese Felwine Saar definisce in termini di una “rigenerazione” dell’afro-contemporaneità [3]. Crocevia tra pensiero autoctono e cosmopolitismo, l’afrotopia promette una re-invenzione del pensiero-mondo a partire dall’Africa. Non un ritorno nostalgico all’Africa pre-coloniale, ma un invito a ripensare ai beni non tangibili per ridefinire la ricchezza del patrimonio africano come chiave dei valori del futuro.

Nel panorama culturale nero contemporaneo, l’afrofuturismo si pone come uno dei campi di esplorazione estetica e politica più promettenti del nuovo millennio. I due numeri tematici di Roots&Routes propongono l’afrofuturismo come raccordo tra la sensibilità diasporica nera americana e le sue varianti in Africa e in Europa. Nell’affrontare temi che investono il rapporto tra spazialità, temporalità, estetica, filosofia, embodiment, tecno-cultura, cultura di massa, e fantascienza, Roots&Routes presenta ricerche unite da un interesse comune per un’estetica e una pratica culturale e politica derivante da esperienze afrodiscendenti e afrodiasporiche proiettate verso l’afrotopia.

Fabrice Monteiro. Photography, 2015. Copyright: Fabrice Monteiro

Note
[1] Tale è la definizione che William Gibson propone più in generale per tutto il genere fantascientifico. Citato da Kodwo Eshun in “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism.” The New Centennial Review, Volume 3, Number 2, Summer 2003, pp. 287-302, p. 290.
[2] Deep (1979) e A Nation Under a Groove (1978) sono i titoli di due brani composti da George Clinton per le band Parliament e Funkadelic.
[3] Felwine Sarr, Afrotopia. Edizioni dell’Asino, 2018. (Traduzione dal francese di Afrotopia, Editions Philippe Rey, 2016).

Fonti delle citazioni
Eshun, K., Further Considerations on Afrofuturism, The New Centennial Review, Volume 3, Number 2, Summer 2003, pp. 287-302, p. 290.
Sarr, F., Afrotopia, Edizioni dell’Asino, 2018. (Traduzione dal francese di Afrotopia, Editions Philippe Rey, 2016).

Cristina Lombardi-Diop is the Director of the Rome Studies Program at Loyola University Chicago, where she holds a joint appointment in Modern Languages and Literatures and Women’s Studies and Gender Studies. She is editor, with Caterina Romeo, of Postcolonial Italy (2012) (published in Italian as L’Italia postcoloniale) and author, with Gaia Giuliani, of Bianco e nero. Storia dell’identità razziale degli italiani (2013). Founder and director of the publishing series Transiti, for Le Monnier Mondadori, Lombardi-Diop has published widely on such topics as white colonial femininity; the Black Atlantic and the Mediterranean; African cultural spaces and African diasporic literature in Italy. Most recently, she has edited (with Caterina Romeo) a special issue of the Journal of Postcolonial Studies on Postcolonial Europe (2016). Her forthcoming project explores Black subjectivity in the afterlife of Mediterranean crossings.

Continua
Afrofuturism

Afro-feminist journeys and the violence of the present. by Lidia Curti

afrofuturismo
Afro-feminist journeys and the violence of the present
by Lidia Curti

The term Afrofuturism indicates a conceptual area at the intersection of afro-diasporic cultures with technology and sci-fi; it places African aesthetics at the centre of human civilization and moves between magics and technology; its ethical and aesthetic range refers to a utopia of alternative possible futures in an anti-racial and feminist frame. The world of slavery – denied and removed – comes back from the past to rewrite the sense of the present, disturbing the world in which we live, and to condition the future [1]. Afrofuturism calls for an imaginative appropriation of the past and the necessity of a redemptive critique of the present. It all started in the 1950s with Sun Ra, poet, pianist and jazz composer. He was a black American, born in Alabama, who presented himself as coming from Saturn to save his African American brothers and sisters from their exclusion in white society and guide them to another planet. How do you know I’m real? I’m not real. I’m just like you. You don’t exist in this society. … I do not come to you as a reality; I come to you as the myth, because that’s what black people are; myths. I came from a dream that the black man dreamed a long time ago. I’m actually a presence sent to you by your ancestors [2].
Afrofuturism combines elements of speculative fiction and fantasy with non-Western myths and beliefs. It can be described as a cultural sensibility, rather than a movement [3], between spirituality and ancestral mythologies on one side and fascination for technology on the other. It is also a framework for critical theory, particularly for feminist black aesthetics. Denise Ferreira da Silva (2017) speaks of blackness as «a disruptive force for a new global order and a way to unsettle ethics in the modern Western world where blackness has no value» [4]. Sylvia Wynter has called for an entirely new definition of what it is to be human and for a ‘profound re-writing of knowledge” in connection with black struggles [5].
A «feminist poetics of blackness» (da Silva) emerges from black narratives, commencing from the black American writer Octavia Butler, by some described as the forerunner of afrofuturism [6]. In novels written from the 1970s onwards, she narrates of journeys from one world to another, rescuing the past and imagining the future in a condensed moment. She poses the theme of the memory of slavery, with its appropriation of lands and bodies, and the importance to its redemption. The time and space travellers in her novels are native- or black-American women, often endowed with superhuman faculties. Her transgressive visions are centred on black female subjectivities.

In her early novel Kindred (1979), Dana, an African-American woman living in California, travels back in time, to a place in Maryland 150 years before, at the time of slavery. It is the place where Alice, a black plantation worker, and Rufus, a slave owner, live; the journey is made necessary to ensure the birth of their daughter who will become her great-grandmother Hagar, thus ensuring her very same existence. This is a motive that will become popular in some famous films of the 1980s, like Zemeckis’ Return to the Future and James Cameron’s Terminator. In consonance with contemporary techno-cultures, afrofuturism has a strong relation with popular culture in many aspects. Its juxtaposition of archaic and postmodern motives is a distinctive feature of contemporary afro-fashion and popular pop music [7].
In that place and time there were two important slave children, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Ross, then Tubman, recalling heroic resistances later recorded in noted writings. Gilroy reminds us that Douglass, echoed by Du Bois, stated that the fight of black Americans is a fight to the finish. Isaac Julien’s recent video, Lessons of the hour. Frederick Douglass (2019), the ex-slave who becomes a writer and an anti-slavery advocate, mentions the less famous women who have been heroines in the struggle, among them Harriet Tubman, the leader of the underground railway that permitted many slaves to escape.
In describing the abjection and the horrors of that condition, Kindred has been seen as an anticipation of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, the novel interpreting ‘the slave sublime’ (Gilroy) through the ghost of the slave girl murdered by her mother; here the history of slavery is written by the scars on her back, that she cannot see or want to know. In both there is a story not ‘to pass on’. This is a term with a double meaning: the memory of slavery is a tale impossible to tell that nevertheless must be told. Octavia Butler has spoken repeatedly in her interviews of the importance for young black Americans to face the legacy of slavery. The return to origins means that the past never passes and must be faced in order to live in the present and construct a future. Similarly, Saidija Hartman, in her own stories of fugitives from slavery, will later say: «I too live at the time of slavery. I mean in the future created by it» (2007, p. 133).
In Dawn (1987), first volume of the Xenogenesis trilogy, Lilith Iypao, a Native American who has survived the destruction of the Earth, finds herself in an alien place inhabited by tentacular beings who have rescued her. The tentacles covering their bodies are sentient and communicative organs through which they feel, see, meet sexually, experience pleasure and pain, besides giving shape to objects and places, in an activity passing the frontiers of gender and race. After a sleep of centuries, she is reborn between two worlds and identities with the task to “inter-generate” between the two. Torn between repulsion and acceptance, Lilith consents to start a new trans-human species in an articulation that goes beyond ancient dichotomies.
In Parable of the Sower (1993), Lauren Oya Olamina is a black American adolescent in flight from a scene of utter devastation and violence. In the wake of the biblical parable, it speaks of seeds and words and describes the migrating heroine’s difficult itinerary in pursuit of a mission. With other fugitives, she plants seeds as marks of an itinerary of rebirth, thus endowing the vegetal world with the task of a reproduction that can save the planet.[8] She then founds the nomad community of Earthseed whose ultimate goal is an interstellar migration to a faraway planet. They are guided by the faith in a goddess of Change: «All that you touch/You change. All you change /Changes you. The only lasting truth /is Change. God/is Change» is the first poetical epigraph of many, interspersed in the novel and in its sequel Parable of the Talents (1998), all insisting on mutation and metamorphosis as the bases of a new life. The importance of belonging to a collectivity and accepting diversity are guiding drives of the movement. The danger of the resurgence of a new slavery in the present and the future is developed in the second novel. The redemption through religion, a different religion, as a necessary cohesion for a black community, is echoed in Sylvia Wynter’s novel The Hills of Hebron (1962).
Her name, Lauren Oya Olamina, links nature to animism, and the African American world to Nigerian Yoruba culture. Her first name Lauren is inspired by a plant; Oya Olamina recalls the Brazilian goddess Oya, close to the Yoruba Nigerian Orisha, with its nine tributaries, the nine tentacles with which she captures the living and the dead, an image between the Brazilian Santeria and the Catholic cult of the Virgin Mary. As goddess of change, she commands wind, tempest and death, exercising her power as the creator of worlds. Lauren herself has superhuman powers as she is endowed, or we could say afflicted, with the hyper-empathic faculty of sharing the pains and suffering of others, including those she has to wound or kill in the necessary fight for survival. An ailment inherited by her mother – a mother she has never known as she died at her birth, a ghost appearing in her dreams – becomes her strength. It also conveys the author’s message against violence and war: what you inflict on others is inflicted on yourself.
With the interstellar journey as utopia, Butler returns to a sci-fi topos in novels that are also considered an important part of the new black narrative, and the foundation of afro-futurist aesthetics. Lauren, and before her Lilith, moving from a mystical past and a troubled present to a utopian future, are perfect heroines of what I would call afro-feminism. She is an important influence in new black narrative and art. This can be seen in the explorations of the slave past in Saidiya Hartman and Hortense Spiller, or the interstellar journeys in Nnedi Okorafor’s novels such as The Book of Phoenix (2015) and Binti (2015- 17). Norah Jemisin, author of The Broken Hearth trilogy (2016-18), has written the introduction to a recent edition of Parable of the Sower, describing it as a precious guide for future struggles in today’s America.

The Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu, our contemporary, has many points in common with Octavia Butler, and interprets an afro-feminist aesthetics even more centrally in her multimedia art. Her ‘fantastic journey’ (2013) visits faraway worlds, showing strange figurations that challenge racial and gender prejudice, spatial and temporal limits. In her collages, made of paper cutups, painting and drawings, Mutu describes war and colonialism as well as the environmental and technological devastation, in the context of a troubled ecology. The disquieting mutant female forms –­ ironic quotations of the female nude in traditional art – are the result of combinations with plants and animals in the context of Africa: women coyote, women tree, women shrubs, from whose hair strength and menace emerge. The black women who are her obsession, become dragon, snake, siren, cyborg, or medusas with tentacular hair. She follows in the path of constructing a feminist poetics of blackness.

A woman with medusa tentacular hair is at the centre of her video The End of Eating Everything (2013), a foreboding of a darker horizon, of the impeding ecological catastrophe, and a warning to us all. Her body representing the earth floats in the sky in harmony with birds and in symbiosis with plants, insects and other animals; slowly her beautiful face turns into an ugly grimace, she starts eating the birds, and her body changes into a mass of dirt and detritus submerging the earth. The female body becomes symptom and symbol of an apocalypses.
The diasporic narratives arriving from the southern shores of the Mediterranean also speak of different worlds linking a mythical past, a colonial and racist present, and a utopian future of mending and reparation and return of the forgotten Italian colonialism to our understanding of the present. The voices of African and Afrodescendent women in Italy (in novels, poetry, visual art, journalism, media, and music) promote a search for a new possible citizenship, marked by fragments of places and powers and crossed by the traces of different histories and cultures.

Most of these writers, and especially those from the Horn of Africa, reveal another view of Italian colonialism. They fill a void in official records by recalling invasions, massacres, concentration camps, and the racial laws of that colonial regime, along with the brutal banality of authoritarian rule. They contribute to the knowledge of the Italian colonial past, creating a rupture in the vision of a homogeneous, white Italy, more European than Mediterranean. They offer a look on ourselves and pose the question of how to shape our identity as Italians after colonialism, recalling a mourning for a loss that Italian history and culture have not addressed, an echo of what has happened for slavery in the western world.
There are many descriptions of the material journey, of the passage from the country of origin through the desert to the sea; they appear in the narratives of Mediterranean migrations with its horrors and dangers, drowning and the deaths but also hope and desire, reminding us that black lives are expendable here as well. Feven Abraha Tekle in her novel Libera (2005) narrates of the sea voyage to Sicily she experienced as a fugitive from Eritrea. With its difficulties and risks, the crossing from Tripoli to Lampedusa reminds her of the other passage, two centuries earlier, of the African slaves over the Atlantic. Against the background of the contorted phases and multiple locations of the Somali diaspora, Ali Farah in Madre piccola (2007) gives the reconstruction of the migration journey, a “circular story of poor people moved by desire” [9]. In an ideal connection to Morrison and Butler, Gabriella Ghermandi’s Regina di fiori e di perle (2007) is inspired by the painful necessity of describing the horrors of Italian colonialism as a reminder for the Italians of today. She offers a counter history of the Italian ‘conquest’ of Ethiopia, with its iniquity and violence. The heroine Mahlet is given the task to pass on the memory of Ethiopian colonial history and become her people’s griotte; she will cross the sea and carry it to the land of the Italians, to destroy their possibility of forgetting: «[…] that is why I am telling you this story. That is also mine. But now, yours as well» (2015, p. 270). Here the importance of the trace created by women’s writings along the path of memory emerges in all its force, accompanied by the difficulty of its necessary telling, as Toni Morrison wrote.

There are Italian novels too, that have started interrogating the memory of our colonialism. Francesca Melandri’s Sangue giusto (2017) narrates the same events we find in Ghermandi’s novel and follows a similar itinerary though from a different angle, that of an Italian woman of today. The novel starts when the heroine Ilaria finds on her steps a black youth whose documents give the name of her father [10]. After the horrors of the crossing (the atrocious Libyan jails, the perils of the sea passage, the arrival in a country where immigration is equated to criminality), he describes the experience of migration like having a wonderful dream while perched on the branches of a tree – the dream constantly interrupted by the danger of falling down.
The names of the many who drowned near Lampedusa (3.10.2013) are at the centre of many works, films and video. Among them, Dagmawi Yimer’s video Asmat – Nomi (2014), is a reminder of the victims in the Mediterranean, disappearing into the anonymity that is symbolic of the subaltern condition. Here again there is a link to the condition of the slaves during the Atlantic passage suspended in an undifferentiated identity, deprived of names and places of origin, as Hortense Spiller says in “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe” (1987), their only name being that of their owners, before the nicknames of their new condition.

These themes and motives find an echo in Italian music and popular culture too. Karima 2G, born in Rome of Liberian parents, is a dancer, singer and video-maker. Speaking from the position of a second generation migrant, she turns her gaze on us, on our racist stereotypes not without irony and humour as in the songs Orangutang and Bunga bunga; she also sings of the arbitrary borders we construct against exiles and migrants in Refugees, reminding us of Borders, a video by another migrant singer, M.I.A., a British rapper and writer of Tamil origins. After her stay in Liberia in 2013, where she has confronted her roots and her division between two worlds, she sings in her album Malala from a renewed feminist position, in a development that she herself defines as afrofeminist.

Notes
[1] Paul Gilroy considers slavery as the inner character of modernity and blackness as its antithesis; in The Black Atlantic (1993) he repeatedly states that the slave trade and the plantation are part of the moral history of the West and that the memory of slavery is essential in the reconnection of the present to a future utopian transformation of racial subordination. Denise Ferreira da Silva (2017) sees a reiteration of this modality of modernity in the racial grammar that has been reactivated by the flux of refugees towards Europe.
[2] These are words from Space is the Place, the film he produced in 1974 where he appears adorned with the emblems of the Egyptian civilization he cherished. In the accompanying album he plays with the Sun Ra Arkestra that he had assembled in the early sixties. It is interesting to note that, in the same year, Jimi Hendrix produced his instrumental piece Third Stone from the Sun, where ironically aliens come to earth in the search for a better place.
[3] Beatrice Ferrara convincingly argues this point in “My measurement of race is rate of vibration” (2012).
[4] Da Silva (2017) links the disregard for lives lost in the streets of the US to those lost in the Mediterranean Sea, where once again ‘black lives don’t Matter’.
[5] In the interview with David Scott (2000), she speaks of a dissonant, planetary humanism, with extensive reference to a new ecology in the wake of Frantz Fanon as a basis for black struggles.
[6] This recognition comes from Mark Dery, who was among the first to coin the term afrofuturism in his essay Black to the Future (1994).
[7] Kindred has become object of a cartoon in 2017; Parable of the Sower a folk-blues opera in 2015, and Dawn is soon to become a TV series directed by Ada du Vernay.
[8] Butler is attentive to a world suffering from climate change and wealth inequality, where a “new” environmental politics cannot come as a result of liberal reform or black inclusivity but only after understandings of relational human subjectivity are deeply restructured. Sylvia Wynter reminds us that Fanon wrote on the connection of black struggles to the fight for a new ecology and da Silva underlines that humans exist in correlation with any other form (animate and inanimate) in the universe.
[9] «A desire so strong as to be able to unearth roots, to challenge cyclones. You know? To die dehydrated, gasp for breath, thrash about is not a trifle. I could imagine the boats in bad conditions and the list of objects found in the bunk. Small bag, copybook, picture, leather shoe, biberon, shirt, rucksack, watch, lace. Details that write a history […]» (20xx, p. xx)
[10] The question posed here and suspended to the end is whether he has the right blood to get citizenship in this country. The title quotes the ius sanguinis, the right of blood, the only one Italian law accepts as the right to stay; the failure of the battle to pass the extension to ius soli, on the basis of birth, marked the ominous passage in Italy to a government opposing to immigration and waving racism as a banner.

References
Farah A., Ubax C., Madre Piccola, Frassinelli, Milano 2007; Engl. ed., Little Mother, transl. by Giovanna Bellesia-Contuzzi and Victoria Offredi Poletto, intro. by Alessandra Di Maio, Indiana University Press, Minneapolis 2011.
Butler O. E., Kindred, Doubleday, New York 1979; Ital. ed. Legami di sangue, trad. di S. Gambescia, cura di M. G. Fabi, Le Lettere, Firenze 2005.
Butler O. E., Dawn, Warner Books, New York 1987; Ital. ed. Ultima genesi, trad. di G. L. Staffilano, Urania Mondadori, Milano 1987.
Butler O. E., Parable of the Sower, Warner Books, New York 1993; Ital. ed. La parabola del seminatore, trad. di A. Polo, Fanucci, Roma 2006.
Butler O. E., Parable of the Talents (Earthseed.2), Seven Stories Press, New York 1998.
Ferrara B., “My measurement of race is rate of vibration”, in Dark Matter Journal, 9-2 (2012), pp. 1-16.
Ferreira da Silva D., Toward a Global Idea of Race, Minnesota U. P., Minneapolis 2007.
Ferreira da Silva D., “On Matter Beyond the Equation of Value”, in e-flux journal, 2017, pp. 1-11.
Fanon F., I dannati della terra, prefazione di J.P. Sartre, a cura di L. Ellena, Einaudi Torino 2007.
Ghermandi G., Regina di fiori e di perle, postfazione di Cristina Lombardi Diop, Donzelli, Roma 2007. Engl. ed. Queen of Flowers and Pearls, transl. by Giovanna Bellesia-Contuzzi and Victoria Offredi Poletto, University of Indiana Press, Bloomingtin & Indianapolis, 2015.
Hartman S., Lose Your Mother. A journey along the Atlantic Route, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York 2007.
Dagmawi Yimer’s video Asmat – Names in memory of all victims of the sea
Karima 2G, “Bunga bunga” (accessed 27 August 2019); “Orangutang” (Accessed 27 August 2019); “Refugees” (Accessed 27 August 2019); “Malala” (Accessed 27 August 2019).
Melandri F., Sangue giusto, Rizzoli, Milano 2017.
Morrison T., Beloved, Chatto &Windus, London 1987; ed. it. Amatissima, trad. di F. Cavagnoli, Frassinelli, Milano 1988.
Mutu W., A Fantastic Journey, video. Extract: (Accessed 27 August 2019)
Mutu W., The End of Eating Everything, video. Extract: (Accessed 27 August 2019)
Spillers Hortense J., “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe”, in Diacritics, vol. 17, n. 2 (1987), pp. 64-81.
Scott D., The Re-Enchantment of Humanism: An Interview with Sylvia Wynter, in Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, 4(2), 2000, pp. 119–217.
Tekle F. A., Libera, con R. Masto, Sperling & Kupfer, Milano, 2005.
Wynter S., The Hills of Hebron, Ian Randle Publishers, Jamaica, Miami 1962.
Wynter S., Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Toward the Human, After Man, its Overrepresentation – An Argument, in The New Centennial Review, vol. 3, n. 3 (2003), pp. 257-337.

Lidia Curti formerly taught English and Feminist studies at the University of Naples, “Orientale” and is now Honorary Professor in the same institution. She is the author of Female Stories, Female Bodies (1998), La voce dell’altra (2006), and co-editor (with Iain Chambers) of The Postcolonial Question. Common skies, divided horizons (1996).

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Afrofuturism

Latinfuturism. Un dispositivo decolonial fuera de tiempo. Edgar Hernandez

afrofuturismo
Latinfuturism.
Un dispositivo decolonial fuera de tiempo
Edgar Hernandez

“El amor y la vida
son hoy sindicalistas,
y todo se dilata en círculos concéntricos.”
Manuel Maples Arce. Prisma (1922)

 

El presente texto aborda la posibilidad de como en distintas regiones de Latinoamérica y su respectiva diáspora, se ha venido gestando un fenómeno estético desde hace casi 300 años y como éste ha hecho eclosión de manera casi simultánea en distintas disciplinas artísticas. La pregunta surge de pensar que el lugar donde se imbrican la ciencia ficción, la idea de América latina y las artes, pudiese potenciar estrategias de emancipación a partir del ejercicio de la memoria, el archivo y la resignificación de la Historia. De las “otras” historias y narrativas que se quedaron fuera del registro de los vencedores.
De cierta manera, este fenómeno estético también parece poner en cuestión las formas hegemónicas en las que se ha impuesto el discurso histórico en la región y de qué manera el capitalismo cognitivo ha influido en la construcción de las subjetividades.
Latinoamérica es otro gran fantasma de la historia; el trauma del dominio, explotación y saqueo perdura en la región, aún hoy en día. Pensemos en el nombre “latino”, que ya en sí posee una carga eurocéntrica; dirían que en el pecado lleva la penitencia. La profundidad en que las raíces de los pueblos originarios de América, la diáspora africana, la presencia centro europea e incluso el legado de Asia, se han enmarañado y constituyen un sincretismo altamente complejo. Sin embargo, el nuestro no es un feliz melting pot, la transposición de formas de ver el mundo y la imposición de unas sobre de otras han dejado una herida visible en el tejido social de nuestros países; sin embargo esas transposiciones han permitido singulares hibridaciones en el terreno de la producción estética del espacio ideológico y geopolítico que es Latinoamérica.

¿Desde dónde se propone esta región del mundo que históricamente ha sido relegada a ser observadora en la escena global? ¿Cómo descolonizar las subjetividades del presente? Pero sobre todo ¿Cómo o desde dónde voltear a ver el futuro en Latinoamérica?

Latinfuturismx
Decía Isaac Asimov que las historias de ciencia ficción son viajes extraordinarios a uno de los infinitos futuros concebibles. El viaje del latinfuturismx inicia en el futuro, sin embargo es en un punto del pasado de América (sí, el continente) donde el tiempo se dislocó:

1. Futuro: [Día 5 del mes epifi del año de Nabonasar 2510].
Yucatán, Mexico. 1774, el fraile franciscano Manuel Antonio de Rivas “recupera” una carta del futuro donde describe un viaje humano a la Luna: «…» [1], escrito en un estilo ya utilizado en la época, de manera epistolar De Rivas proyecta un espejo de la realidad de las colonias españolas en el “nuevo mundo” haciendo mano de la especulación científica, la fantasía, la sátira y la crítica social. Este texto parece ser el primer antecedente conocido de ciencia ficción en América, y el cual le valió a su autor ser investigado por la Santa Inquisición durante diez años.

Afrofuturism es un término traído a la luz en 1993 por Mark Dery en su texto Black to the Future, en él identificó la posibilidad de una estética cultural para la diáspora africana mediada por la experiencia tecnológica. A partir de una serie de temáticas y preocupaciones comunes para el universo afrodiaspórico, los investigadores allegados al concepto lograron trazar una genealogía que llegó hasta finales de los años cincuenta, donde el primer abordaje afrofuturístico lo hará un personaje que permanentemente será perseguido por la controversia, Herman Sonny Blount o mejor conocido como Sun Ra, quien además de afirmar que provenía del planeta Saturno, creo un palimpsesto de jazz, ciencia ficción y viajes intergalácticos. El legado de Sun Ra, plantó una semilla que florecería en forma de un mito, una estética y sobretodo un mensaje: el único futuro posible para la diáspora africana en el continente americano sería, en otros mundos.
De tal forma el afrofuturismo abrió la posiblidad de que desde la música, el cine, la literatura o las artes visuales se podría narrar y especular sobre el futuro, partiendo de la redención del pasado. La diáspora africana ha sido confrontada históricamente con la tecnología a partir de una relación subordinada o bien de materia prima, podríamos rastrear el origen de esta percepción biopolítica hasta la época de expansión colonial de Europa en el que se planteó la reificación del cuerpo negro en función de su explotación capitalista, esto pensado desde la teoría que plantea el origen del capitalismo en el momento en el que Europa se encontró con América [2].
Varios años después de la aparición del afrofuturismo, en un paper publicado en la revista Aztlán por Catherine S. Ramirez se propone una figura similar que visibiliza la experiencia de la población de origen mexicano al norte del Río Bravo (frontera natural entre México y los Estados Unidos) y sus intersecciones con la imaginación, la tecnología, el futuro y la emancipación. El Chicanafuturismo plantea estrategias de afirmación para la cultura chicana en el discurso de la modernidad, cuestionando la promesa de un futuro para la diáspora México Americana y las problemáticas identitarias que históricamente han dado forma a un territorio donde las dinámicas geopolíticas y económicas ponen en entredicho el libre desarrollo de las identidades y su sobrevivencia. Los discursos sobre el futuro, el progreso y la modernidad que tradicionalmente han excluido a la gente de color, en el chicanafuturismo se articularon a la inversa desde la perspectiva del mestizaje, el indigenismo, el género y la identidad.

Así, el latin@futurism abreva de dos “tradiciones”: la afro y la chicana para autoafirmarse y si bien ya deambula en diversos circuitos académicos desde hace un par de años haciendo referencia a una estética especulativa de reciente aparición en los Estados Unidos, representada por el trabajo de diversos artistas que pertenecen a la diáspora latinoamericana en ese país y en los cuales se reconocen ciertas problemáticas y preocupaciones en común. Si bien está revisión es muy puntual y pertinente, asume la experiencia latinoamericana desde la alteridad, es decir, desde la condición de inmigrante. Desde los costas de Canada, el midwest norteamericano, bajando hasta la frontera México – Estados Unidos para subir de nuevo por las Antillas y el Caribe hasta Nueva York, estas regiones están habitadas por individuos que según el Código de los Estados Unidos, Título 8, §1101(a)(3) clasifica como aliens [3], es decir desde una perspectiva blanca, angloparlante, y sobre todo del “norte”: ellos no pertenecen ahí.
De tal suerte, con la intención de desmarcarnos del latin@futurism que si bien ya responde a ciertas respuestas, no aborda integralmente los intereses aquí planteados. Se propone utilizar como dispositivo para este texto, latinfuturismx pensando en una construcción que sea lo más incluyente y que apele a las narrativas de esos aliens y evidentemente también a los planetas desde donde llegaron.
Resulta urgente una operación sur-sur, para entender y explicar hasta donde se desdobla un mapa en el que la ciencia ficción, el arte y la vida en los territorios americanos que formaron parte del proyecto de expansión colonial de la península ibérica en el siglo XVI, detonaron un modo de sobrevivir al olvido a partir de imaginar el futuro. Latinfuturismx entonces no sólo es un término que también hace una apropiación de la lógica futura de los movimientos afro/chicana futuristas, sino que samplea el “ismo” para poder subvertir las subjetividades del presente, construir otros futuros y decolonizar el pasado. «Cuando el presente se ha dado por vencido, debemos escuchar a las reliquias del futuro en el potencial inactivo del pasado» (Fisher, 2013).

Fantología

2. El espectro del eterno Presente [1 de enero de 2013].
La lenta cancelación del futuro. Así identificó Francisco ‘Bifo’ Berardi al momento en el que el futuro, entendido como la percepción psicológica generalizada de que la historia existía en un permanente progreso ininterrumpido, perdió lentamente la capacidad de avanzar y propiciar nuevas formas culturales. La charla que publicó la revista Frieze en la víspera del año 2013 [4] entre el mismo filosofo italiano y el teórico cultural inglés Mark Fisher, en un tono más bien pesimista ambos coinciden en la impotencia de cara a los procesos de deshumanización del capitalismo financiero y al escenario de precariedad, alienación y soledad que éste presenta. Además discuten posibles escenarios que permitirían articular nuevas acciones de resistencia en un mundo que aparentemente está en movimiento continuo y permanentemente informado, pero que en realidad está deteniéndose muy lentamente.

Mark Fisher profundiza en su libro Capitalist Realism (explicando como en este momento de la historia enfrentamos una etapa del capitalismo tardío encarnado en la forma del presente, pero estático, uno que fluye en bucle perpetuo, de fin de la historia [5]. De futuros perdidos. Un espacio-tiempo heterotópico de perpetuo presente en loop, prefigurado por Frederic Jameson hace ya casi treinta años en la figura del “pastiche” [6]. Contemplamos la aparición de una estética del eterno tiempo presente, un bucle en giro permanente evocando un “glorioso” tiempo pasado casi espectral donde la nostalgia, la repetición y la lógica del consumo, nos conducen cada vez más hacia un estado de alienación permanente, donde el futuro y la posibilidad de redimir al pasado nunca llegarán.
¿No decía Benjamin que en toda época ha de intentarse arrancar la tradición al respectivo conformismo que está a punto de subyugarla? [7]
¿Y qué, de la exigencia que pesa del pasado sobre nosotros para redimirlo?

Hace casi 20 años que el Ejercito Zapatista de Liberación Nacional vive en el futuro, creándolo activamente desde el presente. El comandante Tacho del EZLN aseguraba «El tiempo está de nuestro lado, y cuando hablamos de ese tiempo, estamos diciendo que nosotros somos ese tiempo» [8]. Entonces, para desarrollar la habilidad de transposición cuántica que permita anticiparse el futuro necesitamos entender como es que el presente se transformó en un futuro perdido, en la cristalización de algo que nunca pasó y sólo vive en el instante de la evocación pero que de alguna forma sigue estando ahí: una “fantología”, concepto elusivo y altamente volátil planteado por el filósofo argelino Jacques Derrida una así, tendríamos que ubicarnos en la posibilidad de posicionarse en el espacio-tiempo preciso en que el bucle generase una repetición del pasado para que desde ahí recordar de nuevo como es que concebíamos los futuros. El autor de “Espectros de Marx” aseguraba que la percepción del tiempo estaba condicionada a ser una experiencia espectral en la que el mundo no estaba presente en su totalidad.
Pensando la fantología como un hueco en el tiempo, la operación consistiría en evocar de manera paradójica con los nuevos medios la experiencia de las tecnologías obsoletas, es decir, canalizar al espectro del presente e invocar en el pasado el futuro que no podemos imaginar.

“Fantología I (bucle)” dall’album el_Paracaídas di Peltre.

“Backmasking” dall’album el_Paracaídas di Peltre.

“Un rayito de luna” di Peltre.

Irradiador
En la cosmovision aimara el pasado está vivo, no genera nostalgia por que no se perdió, de tal forma que está esperando su llamado, su pertinencia cuando la crisis del presente lo reclame, el pasado siempre está ahí.

3. El futuro/pasado: […]
Qhip nayra uñtasis sarnaqapxañani, es un aforismo aimara que la activista y socióloga boliviana, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, interpreta así: «mirando al futuro/pasado podemos caminar al presente/futuro. Es decir, necesitamos estar de cara al pasado y con el futuro a nuestra espalda como única guía para poder llegar desde el presente hacia el futuro. Así, en este espacio de tiempo dislocado (time out of joint [9]), encontramos en el mañana el tercer tiempo del latinfuturismx, como uno de posibilidad de re lectura del pasado desde el espectro del presente para proyectar nuevos futuros, futuros no imaginados desbordados de la revuelta de lo posible».

En otoño de 1923 la Ciudad de México fue tomada por asalto por un documento nada tradicional para la época: “IRRADIADOR. Revista de Vanguardia. Proyector Internacional de Nueva Estética”, se trataba de la más reciente publicación del movimiento Estridentista, Manuel Maples Arce y Fermín Revueltas poeta y pintor respectivamente, publican lo que será el órgano oficial y sino, quizá la publicación más potente en la breve historia del Estridentismo, el movimiento de vanguardia mexicano que inicio como el proyecto personal del poeta veracruzano.
“Irradiador” representa de cierta forma todo el aparato ideológico del movimiento estridentista: un laboratorio radical de ideas con intenciones empapadas de revuelta. En palabras del poeta: «El estridentismo es una subversión en contra de los principios reaccionarios que estandarizan el pensamiento de la juventud intelectual de América» [10].
La revista fue impresa al estilo de las publicaciones comerciales en boga; lo que parece un inocente anuncio es en realidad una declaración de intenciones. A partir de una estrategia digna del detournement situacionista (sólo que planteada 45 años antes), se presenta “Irradiación inaugural” la editorial del primer número, una pieza corta que, utilizando lenguaje y estilos de la publicidad de la época, reta abiertamente al lector y lanza una críptica llamada a filas: «Ud. es un subversionalista específico» [11].
Sin embargo, no es en la publicación de Irradiador, donde se encuentra el momento más brillante del estridentismo y será con la aparición de la radio en donde esta vanguardia dará cuenta de su condición de avanzada y que reverberaba con las ideas de otros movimientos que había brotado alrededor del planeta.

La Radia

4.Pasado: [8 de mayo de 1923]
El día que se realiza la transmisión inaugural de la radio en México es un momento trascendental para la vanguardia artística liderada por Manuel Maples Arce. Ya que su voz será la primera en surcar el espectro electromagnético con un poema que no sólo está dedicado específicamente al nuevo medio, sino que hace referencia a la radio desde el medio mismo. “TSH” o “Telefonía sin hilos”, de Maples Arce, escrito posteriori a la primera ocasión en que el poeta fue expuesto a una radio de verdad, experiencia en la que, según sus propias palabras se encontraba: «aún bajo los efectos de la escucha» (Gallo, 2005, p.127). «El estridentismo es el hermano de leche de la Radiofonía. ¡Son cosas de vanguardia!» (Rashkin, 2014, p.154).

La vida del movimiento estridentista fue tan breve como potente el espectro que reverberó en las artes en América en la primera mitad del siglo. Recientemente ha recibido atención de nuevo en México, resignificándolo como una vanguardia que dialogó en sus propios términos más que ser el eco de otros movimientos de la época. Tal es el caso de el Futurismo en Italia y el Estridentismo en México, si bien existen muchos puntos en común en ambas historias, es en sus tiempos distintos, dislocados donde aun se escuchan los ecos en el sonido de los tiempos.
En 1933 Filippo Tommaso Marinetti junto con su colega Pino Masnata escriben el manifiesto de La Radia Futurista, este documento constituirá uno de los documentos más tristemente celebres del futurismo por algunas de las declaraciones encontradas ahí, sin embargo y entre sus proclamas lanzan dos puntos que merecen ser salvados en función del Latinfuturistx.
El manifiesto menciona la posibilidad emancipatoria de un arte desterritorrializado, en ninguna parte: «7. Un arte sin tiempo ni espacio sin ayer ni mañana. La posibilidad de sintonizar estaciones emisoras situadas en diversas frecuencias horarias y la pérdida de la luz destruirá las horas el día y la noche» y también en el segundo, donde explica ciertos fenómenos sonoros que tanto apelaron al gusto futurista y que es además una de sus más grandes aportaciones al mundo del arte y sobre todo al arte sonoro: «16. Utilización de ruidos de sonidos de acordes de armonías, simultaneidad musicales o ruidosas de silencios todos con sus graduaciones de dureza de crescendo y de decrescendo que se convertirán en los extraños pinceles para pintar delimitar y colorear la oscuridad infinita de la Radia dando cubicidad redondez esférica en definitiva geometría.»
Si bien, el presente texto forma parte de una investigación artística que se encuentra en proceso, considera que clasificar al latinfuturismx como fenómeno estético, metodológía, práctica artística resultará ocioso; se pretende más entenderlo como una actitud: un espíritu, que no menos inmune pero sí más volátil, se vuelva la reverberación de un sonido en un cuerpo, un espectro para el futuro y que emane a través de los tiempos.
El latinfuturismx se asume como un dispositivo que desde distintos territorios, géneros y medios propone futuros alternos de afirmación colectiva donde el espíritu de la ficción, la fantasía y la especulación tecnológica operen cómo estrategia para decantar otros futuros concebibles, superponiendo de manera cuántica la narrativa de los tiempos y así decolonizar las subjetividades que en el futuro permitirán la propia construcción de la realidad en el presente, y como dicen los aimara, avanzar viendo el ahora y en la sucesión de los acontecimientos construir activamente un nuevo futuro.

Notes
[1] El título completo del texto es: “Sizigias y cuadraturas lunares ajustadas al meridiano de Mérida de Yucatán por un anctítona o habitador de la Luna y dirigidas al Bachiller Don Ambrosio de Echeverría, entonador que ha sido de kyries funerales en la parroquia del Jesús de dicha ciudad y al presente profesor de logarítmica en el pueblo de Mama de la península de Yucatán; para el año del Señor 1775”.
[2] Según la Dialéctica de la modernidad de Enrique Dussel
[3] (extranjeros o alienígenas, en español)
[4] Frieze: Give me shelter, Mark Fisher
[5] hago referencia a “El fin de la Historia y el último hombre” de Francis Fukuyama.
[6] Jameson,“El posmodernismo o la lógica cultural del capitalismo tardío”, p. 10
[7] Benjamin, “Tesis sobre la filosofía de la historia”, Tesis VI
[8] Ramírez Cuevas, J. (2oo1), Ya ganamos, y vamos a volver a ganar, dice Tacho [Página web],  [Consultada en 12 de mayo 2019]
[9] según la ontología espectral de Jacques Derrida. Hauntology
[10] Maples Arce. “¿Qué opina usted del estridentismo?, 34.
[11] Maples Arce y Revueltas. “Irradiador No.1”, 2.

Palabras clave
#latinfuturismx #historia #cienciaficción #decolonialidad #capitalismocognitivo #hauntology

Referencias
Benjamin, W., (1940). Tesis sobre la filosofía de la historia. [pdf] Revolta Global. Disponible en [Consultada el 23 de Agosto de 2019].
Cuck Philosophy (2018). Hauntology, Lost Futures & 80’s Nostalgia. [Vídeo online]. Disponible en [Coonsultada en agosto 2018]
Cornejo, K., (2017). Decolonial Futurisms. Ancestral border crossers, time machines, and space travel in Salvadoran Art. En: R. Hernández, T. Stallings y Joanna Szupinska-Myers, ed., Mundos Alternos. Art & Science Fiction in the Americas, Riverside: UCR ARTSBlock, pp. 21-31.
Dery, M., (1999). Black to the Future. Afrofuturism 1.0. [en línea] Detritus. Disponible en [Consultada el 10 de julio de 2019].
Fernández Delgado, M., (2004). La ciencia ficción en México. México: Instituto Politécnico Nacional.
Fisher, M., (2009) Capitalist Realism. Alresford: Zero Books, 81.
________. (2014) Ghosts of My Life. Alresford: Zero Books, 231.
________.(2012) The Metaphysics of Crackle. [en línea] Dancecult. Journal of Electronic Dance Music. Disponible en [Consultada el 12 de abril de 2019].
Gallo, R., (2005). Mexican Modernity. Cambridge: MIT Press, 268.
Löwy, M., (2002). Walter Benjamin: Aviso de incendio. Buenos Aires: Fondo de cultura económica, 185.
Marinetti, F.T., Masnata, P., (1933). La radia. [en línea] Kunstradio. Disponible en [Consultada el 20 de agosto de 2019].
Merla-Watson, C., The Altermundos of Latin@futurism, en “Alluvium”, Vol. 6, No. 1 (2017): n. pag. Web. 15 March 2017. Disponible en [Consultada el 10 de noviembre de 2018].
Ramírez, C., (2008). Afrofuturism/Chicanafuturism. A Fictive Kin. Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, 33:1, Primavera, 2009. Disponible en [Consultado el 5 de marzo de 2018].
Rashkin, E., (2014). La aventura estridentista. Historia cultural de una vanguardia. México: Fondo de cultura económica, 420.
Rivera Cusicanqui, S., (2015). Sociología de la imagen : ensayos. Buenos Aires : Tinta Limón, 352.

Edgar C. Hernández Robles. México, 1978. Investigación Artística sobre/desde el sonido y la imagen-movimiento. Su producción, investigación y docencia centran su estrategia en especular desde el presente, recuperando desde el pasado esos nuevos futuros, no imaginados. Doctorante del Programa Arte: Producción e investigación de la Universitat Politècnica de València en España; Maestro en Artes Visuales por la UNAM.

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Afrofuturism

Afrofuturist Degas. by Rosella Simonari

afrofuturismo
Afrofuturist Degas
by Rosella Simonari

Introduction

«What if Edgar Degas’s ballerinas were black?»
Potentially, this is an Afrofuturist question. Afrofuturism is a field of enquiry that looks at the interrelation between imagination, technology and Africana-related themes. The term was devised by Mark Dery in 1994 (180) and has since then been linked to numerous projects that continue to expand (see, for example, Anderson and Jones, 2016). My claim is that Degas has been Afrofuturised when, in 2016, the fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar published the article Misty Copeland and Degas: Art of Dance. Written by Stephen Mooallem, it also featured Ken Browar and Deborah Ory’ photographs of Misty Copeland posing as Degas’s ballerinas (images 1 and 4). The idea for the article and photographs came from an upcoming exhibition at MOMA, New York, on the French painter’s monotype series, Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty. The ‘strange new beauty’ was Misty Copeland, who entered history when, in 2015, she was promoted principal dancer at one of the most important ballet companies in the world, American Ballet Theatre, becoming the first African American to achieve that role.
The subtle association of the adjective ‘strange’ with Copeland’s blackness in the context of ballet can be seen as a way for the white establishment to negotiate with her accomplishments. The world of classical ballet is, in fact, a white world where a black ballerina is seen as a sort of alien creature, to use a recurring Afrofuturist trope. As we shall see, Copeland herself can be considered as an Afrufuturist artist, an aspect further amplified and enriched by these photographs. There are at least three questions emerging from Browar and Ory’ work: one centred on Degas’s dance paintings, another on the absence/presence of blacks in ballet and other contexts during his time and the third on the notion of ballet and photography as technologies. In this study, I intend to explore these questions using Afrofuturism as my main conceptual vector in triangulation with dance and cultural history, in themselves past-directed time-machines. Travelling back in time is important «to explain the present and to prophesise the future» (Gaga, [1973] 1995: 51), thus operating a «chronopolitical intervention» (Eshun, 2003: 292) that can actually collapse time to recode Western white imagery.

Image 1: The Star by Edgar Degas, 1876-77; Misty Copeland in The Star, photo by Ken Browar and Deborah Ory, 2016.

Degas’s ballerinas were white
Edgar Degas is not easy to decipher. He proclaimed to be a realist but was a member of the Impressionist group. He did not like the market «of the official Salons» (Armstrong, [1991] 2003: 23) but was a conservative. He was an elusive figure. He is regarded as the painter of dancers as he devoted a good part of his work to this theme. His obsession with ballerinas was probably the result of different factors, like his interest in movement, the human body and work. Unlike the Impressionists, he painted his dancers indoors in his studio or at the Opéra, drawing numerous sketches before the actual painting. His work was characterised by “unconventional compositions” (Kendall and Devonyar, 2011, 16) and “distorted” and “dislocated” bodies.
Brower and Ory’ photographs adapted four of his works: The Star (1876-77), which exemplifies his unusual points of view, in this case from above, The Dance Studio (1878), where the dancer characteristically adjusts her tutu, the Little Girl Aged Fourteen (1878-81), a sculpture portraying ballet’s loose fourth position and The Green Dancer (1879), where a raised leg in attitude, a kind of dislocated pose, contaminates the pose of the protagonist of the painting, in attitude as well. They are all representative of his style and his tendency to portray ballerinas onstage and, far more often, backstage and before, during or after a class. Reimagining Copeland as his dancers reveals one given for granted aspect, that his ballerinas were all white, reflecting a firm tradition within ballet history and aesthetics.


Black characters and performers
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries there were black characters in ballet and black performers in other contexts. The black characters were usually performed by white dancers in blackface and included the servant Domingo in Paul et Virginie (1806), the slave in Excelsior (1881), the Golden Slave in Schéhérazade (1910) and the Moor in Petrushka (1911). With the term ‘blackface’, I mean the practice of painting one’s face and body black. Blackface should be inserted in the wider context of face and body painting which was and is widespread in various traditions and cultures. The phenomenon of the revered black Madonnas comes to mind. For example, according to some sources, the Loreto Madonna’s statue in Italy was initially white and became black due to candle smoke (Grimaldi, Sordi, 1995: 19). It was then left black-skinned probably “out of awe” (Warner, [1976] 2000: 274). Unlike the Loreto Madonna, blackface in North American minstrel shows was used to mock black people and constituted a racist “weapon” (Cockrell, 1997: 169) to define and marginalise them.
In the above-mentioned ballets, which came from three different intertwined schools (the French, the Italian and the Russian), we can notice a pattern where blacks embody subaltern subjects. In them, there was probably not the same type of mockery we find in minstrel shows, but there was a stereotypical perspective. In Paul et Virginie there was a «favourable approach to blacks» (Chazin-Bennahum, 2005: 143), but the climax in Domingo’s role was «his pas with a mirror» and image 2 suggests that he looked at his reflected face with naïve surprise. Furthermore, this and the other black characters in the ballet were seen as too black by the Parisian audience and «a shade of brown» replaced black for their body paint in subsequent productions.
In these instances, blackface reinstated the absence of black dancers, who probably did not have any access to ballet and turned them into ghostly creatures, as thin as skin, present in the storyline but absent in the flesh. Blackface is still used today, in spite of its discriminatory connotation and of black dancers’ actual availability to interpret the roles [1]. Copeland’s interpretation of Degas’s ballerinas unveils this enduring practice and reclaims black dancers’ presence in the flesh, building an alternative inclusive history for them.

Image 2: Beaupré as Domingo, print by Adrien Jean Baptiste Muffat (Joly), 1820. From the New York Public Library.

Copeland’s act also looks for the presence of black performers in nineteenth century Paris, opening another parallel time portal. Perhaps, at the beginning of the century, the most famous was Sara Baartman, better known as the Hottentot Venus. This epithet exemplifies the contradictory and racist tension she was caught in, as ‘hottentot’ derogatorily referred to «the clicking, jerking quality of Khoisan speech» [1], Khoisan being the term designating her cultural South African group, while ‘Venus’ to the Roman goddess of love and beauty. Born in South Africa in the 1770s, she was probably obliged to travel to Europe to earn money by exposing herself to the public, due to her large buttocks. When in 1815 she died in Paris, her body was dissected and remade «in a plaster cast» (Crais, Scully, 2009: 2), displayed at the 1937 International Exhibition and only returned to South Africa in 2002 where she received «a state burial». Baartman’s case was used to ‘explain’ «the inferiority of the Hottentot and people with dark skins» (Crais, Scully, 2009: 3) and raises the question as to what extent did colonialism contribute to perpetrate the lack of black dancers in ballet and shape its technique and aesthetics.
Other black performers included Jeanne Duval, Charles Baudelaire’s Haitian muse and mistress, The Zulus, a group of representatives of the African Zulu people who performed at the Folies Bergère in 1879, and the African Cuban clown Chocolat. The presence of these people outside ballet attests to a sharp racial division between popular entertainment, like the music-hall, and the more high-class world of ballet, at least at the Paris Opéra. Copeland’s act infiltrates this separation, letting the two dimensions collide and short-circuit.

Ballet and photographic technology
Whether referring to science fiction or hip hop, the use of technology is particularly significant in Afrofuturism. Its “miss-use” (Delany in Dery, 1994: 193) is one of its declinations. What do we mean with the term ‘technology’? And where do we find it in the present study? There are countless definitions of technology, some in relation to its use of tools, others to scientific knowledge. The Merriam-Webster defines it as «the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area». The word comes from the Greek ‘technologia’, which means «systematic treatment of an art, from technē art, skill». In this sense, we can consider ballet as a technology of the body in motion, given also the fact that the word ‘technique’, as in ballet technique, shares the same root. Next in line is photography, which was at its initial stages during Degas’s time, who was inspired by and experimented with it.
Ballet technique is a powerfully visual technique (Thomas, 2003: 98) with a complex vocabulary and theoretical framework that includes the use of some tools, like the barre and, for women, pointe shoes. It is based on five feet positions, all characterised by legs «turned out at the hip» (Homans, 2010: 23), one of its great inventions. In the first position the heels touch each other, it is a sort of point of departure position, while the other four prepare «the body to move» (Homans, 2010: 23) in different directions, «front, side or back». The arms, in the so-called port de bras, are mapped as well and the relation between limbs «scrupulously defined» (Homans, 2010: 24). Ballet is a technology of geometrical lines, «the most dominant and recognisable theatre dance form in the west» (Thomas 2003: 95). Its technique developed between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in France, where «monarchical power» (Thomas, 2003: 95) was glorified. Pointe work for women was incorporated in the nineteenth century when the white ballerina raised to stardom. The technique changed, different methods were developed (the Cecchetti, the Vaganova etc.) as the dancers’ bodies and the audience’s perception of them changed. Still it has maintained an aristocratic allure which, in a way, has banned blacks from its realm.
By beginning to enter this exclusive world, black ballet dancers have broken its uniformity-based aesthetics. It was a difficult path, because it dealt with the way black people were seen, devalued and considered unsuitable for ballet. As bell hooks points out, «racial integration in a social context where white supremacist systems are intact undermines marginal spaces of resistance by promoting the assumption that social equality can be attained without changes in the culture’s attitudes about blackness and black people» (Hooks, 1992: 10)
One of the first black dancers who engaged with ballet is probably Josephine Baker (image 3), who from 1925 to at least 1935, danced it following a parodic approach (Harris, 2008). Not long after her experimentation, Janet Collins auditioned with success for Léonide Massine’s Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, but was asked to paint her face white and was encouraged to refuse the offer (Lewin, Collins, 2011: 21). In the 1950s, Raven Wilkinson, who would become Copeland’s mentor, became a member of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, but faced discrimination when touring the South part of the United States (Wilkinson in Langlois, 2007: 25). Throughout the decades others followed, Arthur Mitchell’s Dance Theatre of Harlem was founded in 1969 and visible spaces began to be created for black ballet dancers in national and international, integrated and all black companies.

Image 3 Josephine Baker in a tutu with Alberto Spadolini, 1932-1933. Studio Piaz, courtesy of Marco Travaglini.

However, the colour line still remains a barrier, «there was always this notion, this fear that if we had dancers [of] many different kinds of skin complexion in a row together, they would visually cancel each other out, jar or contradict with each other» [3]. That is why black ballet dancers look like Afrofuturist aliens in this world. Talking about Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Greg Tate states that «the whole intellectual landscape of the novel, which deals with the condition of being alien and alienated, speaks, in a sense, to the way in which being black in America is a science fiction experience» (Tate in Dery, 1994, 208). In this sense, the traumatic collective experience of slavery for Africans and African Americans can be read as an alien abduction, «how much more alien do you think it gets?» [4]. Blacks were seen as inferior subjects and cast as alien Others as did those ballet dancers who initially attempted to enter the world of ballet.
Copeland was the only black dancer in the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre and came from a poor background. Unlike many of her peers, «I felt very much alone» (Copeland, Jones, 2014: 155). She was also more curvaceous in regard to the ballerina standard body type, «then there is me, with my full breasts, muscular limbs, and a curve to my hips» (Copeland, Jones, 2014: 162). According to Deirdre Kelly, the trend for this kind of ballerina image began with choreographer George Balanchine [5] and Ramsay Burt, referring to the work of Susan Bordo, has noted that «it is at times when women have been challenging men in the public sphere and competing with them for jobs in the world of work – in the 1890s, 1920s and from the mid-1960s to the present – that slenderness has become a fashion norm» (Burt, 1998: 78-79). A more curvaceous body would trouble this aesthetics. That is also why by entering the ballet world, Copeland misuses precisely its conceptual aesthetics, injecting it with further energy when posing as one of Degas’s ballerinas, because she shifts the question from twenty-first century United States to the very time and place that shaped ballet as we know it today, nineteenth century Paris.
The second technological misuse has to do with the other medium that made this act possible, that is photography. Photographs are «a rectangle of time» (Tancredi, [2012] 2017: 8) and, on this occasion, they are a technologically advanced medium through which the past and the present coexist. Browar and Ory’ photographs trigger two main reflections: one dealing with the relationship between art and photography, the other with photographic adaptation. The first question has been widely debated, often posing one against the other and defining photography as «the ghost of painting» (Clarke, 1997: 19). Peter Galassi criticises this assumption, emphasising a line of continuity between the two, «photography was not a bastard left by science on the doorstep of art, but a legitimate child of the Western pictorial tradition» (Galassi, [1981] in Hershberger 2014, 215). In this sense, «the invention of linear perspective» in Renaissance art represents the point of origin of photography. In Browar and Ory’ photographs, there is more than continuity as the subject and point of view are the same as Degas’s paintings, with differences in the medium and the represented subject. Furthermore, photography has played a fundamental role in the reproduction and fruition of art as it has allowed a large public access to it in books, posters, postcards or online. Few people have probably seen Degas’s The Star live, but many of them have seen it in photographs. During Degas’s time photography was at an early stage of its development and black-and-white photographs were the main resulting mode. Photography influenced Degas in paintings like Dancer Posing for a Photograph (1875) and he himself experimented with the medium. However, photography was only beginning to compete with artists like him in portraying movement, «the inability of early photographers to document figures in action, for example, may have prompted some of Degas’s ambitious attempts to draw ballerinas hovering on pointe» (Kendall, Devonyar, 2011: 16).
In regard to the second reflection, it is important to highlight that adaptations entail «always a double process of interpreting and then creating something new» (Hutecheon, 2006: 20). And this process makes adaptations what they are, «repetition with variation» (Hutcheon, 2006: 4). The Afrofuturist adaptation misusing turn in Browar and Ory’ photographs is the combination of Degas’s painting style with an African American subject. The Star is an example. As it happens with other Degas’s paintings, the dancer’s white tutu is “barely distinguishable” from the (Armstrong, [1991] 2003: 54) tone of the dancer’s skin, while in Browar and Ory’ reinterpretation Copeland’s skin tone is placed in contrast with her tutu and is further underlined by the white corsages she wears on her wrists, a fashion touch we do not find in Degas’s painting. Moreover, there is a subtle contrast between Copeland’s neat figure and the blurred background that recalls Degas’s painting style. It looks like an elegant photomontage.

Image 4: Little Girl Aged Fourteen by Edgar Degas, 1878-81; Misty Copeland as the Girl Aged Fourteen, photo by Ken Browar and Deboarh Ory, 2016.

A discourse apart deserves Browar and Ory’s photographic adaptation (image 4) of Degas’s sculpture Little Girl Aged Fourteen (1878-81). First, it is not the photograph of a painting (in itself another flat surface) but of a three-dimensional object. Second, its playing with light and chromatic differences operates an Afrofuturist conundrum. Degas’s statue of Marie van Goethem, one of Paris Opéra’s ‘petit rats’, that is the young pupils studying at the school, created a scandal when it was first presented to the public for the chosen subject, its realism and its composition (Kendall and Devonyar, 2011, 72). Browar and Ory opted for a profile perspective, thus highlighting the pose structure, with Copleand in a loose fourth position, one of the above-mentioned fundamental five feet positions in ballet, and her arms stretching at her back. Originally, Degas’s statue was made of wax but was then recast in bronze in more than twenty copies after his death. In the Harper’s Bazaar’s article it is not specified to which copy the statue in the photograph refers to. It looks like the one owned by the Clark Museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA. A lot can be said about Browar and Ory’ adaptation, like the fact that Copeland, a fully grown woman, poses as a girl aged fourteen.
However, it is again the chromatic question that puzzles the viewer. If, on the one hand, Copeland’s legs are almost of the same colour as those of the statue, on the other hand, her face and shoulders are much lighter, thus posing the conundrum: what if black people were whiter than white people? It is a paradox that also refigures the way we look at bronze statues where a dark-coloured material is used to represent the human figure. Degas’s model was white but became black because of the use of bronze, Copeland is black but became white because of photographic light. This opens up two further questions: one dealing with the different shades of skin tone pertaining to people of African descent and the other with a ‘what if’ narrative focusing on the above-mentioned conundrum. The first is a complex and at times taboo issue [6] that emerges, for example, in Wilkinson’s case. She was a light-skinned black ballerina and could pass for white, even though when asked she would say she was black (Wilkinson in Langlois, 2007: 25). The second recalls Adrian Igoni Barrett’s Kafkian 2015 novel Blackass, where one morning a black man wakes up white-skinned, except for his rear end. This radical change opens up an unusual perspective on what it feels like for a black man to be white in Nigeria. In the light of what has been written, it is important to keep repeating the initial question, keep Afrofuturising Degas and ballet to redefine the past and present and «imagine possible futures» (Dery, 1994: 180). And so, what if Degas’s ballerinas were black?

Notes
[1] See Mackrell, 2007, accessed 13 August 2019 and Anonymous, 2015, accessed 27 August 2019.
[2] Etymonline, accessed 30 August 2019
[3] Anderson in Stillness Broken, 2006, min. 7.00
[4] Eshun in The Lost Angel of History, 1996, min 25.00
[5] Kelly in A Ballerina’s Tale, 2015, min. 11.40
[6] See “Shades of Black” article series on The Guardian, accessed 29 August 2019

References
A Ballerina’s Tale, dir. Nelson George, feat. Misty Copeland and others, prod. Leslie Norville, Nelson George, Sundance Selects 2015.
Anderson, R., Jones, C.E., eds., Afrofuturism 2.0 – The Rise of Astro-Blackness, Lexington Books, Lanham 2016.
Anonymous Usage of Blackface in American Ballet Theatre’s Production of Othello, Broadway Black, 1 June 2015.
Armstrong, C., Odd Man Out – Readings of the Work and Reputation of Edgar Degas, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles [1991] 2003.
Burt, R., Alien Bodies – Representations of Modernity, ‘race’ and Nation in Early Modern Dance, Routledge, London 1998.
Chazin-Bennahum, J., The Lure of Perfection – Fashion and Ballet, 1780-1830, Routledge, New York 2005.
Clarke, G., The Photograph, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1997.
Cockrell, D., Demons of Disorder – Early Blackface Minstrels and Their World, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1997.
Copeland, M., Jones, C., Misty Copeland – Life in Motion, an Unlikely Ballerina, A Touchstone Book, New York 2014.
Crais, C., Scully, P., Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus – A Ghost Story and a Biography, Princeton University Press, Princeton 2009.
Dery, M., (ed.), Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate, and Tricia Rose, in «Flame Wars – The Discourse of Cyberculture», Duke University Press, Durham 1994, pp. 179-222.
Eshun, K., Further Considerations on Afrofuturism, in «The New Centennial Review», vol. 3, n. 2, Summer 2003, pp. 287-302.
Gaga, Interview with Ishmael Reed [1973], in Conversations with Ishmael Reed, edited by Bruce Dick and Amritjit Singh, Mississippi University Press, Jackson 1995, pp. 51-58.
Grimaldi, F., Sordi, K., L’iconografia della Vergine di Loreto nell’Arte, Carilo, Loreto 1995.
Harris, A., Parody in Pointe Shoes: Josephine Baker, Ballet, and the Politics of Aesthetics, 1925-35, in «Discourses in Dance», vol. 4, Issue 2, 2008, pp. 73-96.
Hershberger, A.E., (ed.) Photographic Theory – A Historical Anthology, Wiley Blackwell, Chichester 2014.
Homans, J., Apollo’s Angels – A History of Ballet, Granta, London 2010.
Hooks, B., Black Looks – Race and Representation, South End Press, Boston 1992.
Hutcheon, L., A Theory of Adaptation, Routledge, New York 2006.
Kendall, R., Devonyar, J., Degas and the Ballet – Picturing Movement, Royal Academy of Arts, London 2011.
Langlois, M., A Conversation with Raven Wilkinson, in Ballet Review, vol. 35, n. 3, Fall 2007, pp. 22-32.
Lewin, Y.T., Collins, J., Night’s Dancer – The Life of Janet Collins, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown 2011.
Mackrell, J., Why is ballet still blacking up?, The Guardian, 3 August 2007
Merriam
Mooallem, S., Misty Copeland and Degas: Art of Dance, in Harper’s Bazaar, Feb 10, 2016 (accessed 10 August 2019).
Shades of Black article series on colourism, The Guardian, 2019.
Stillness Broken, written and produced by Nina Gregory, Olya Kuznetsova, Tom Lane, feat. Raven Wilkinson, Jack Anderson and others, Columbia School of Journalism 2006.
Tancredi, L., La vita private di Giulia Schucht, ev, Macerata [2012] 2017.
The Last Angel of History, dir. John Akomfrah, written and researched by Edward George, feat. Kodwo Eshun, Ishmael Reed, Octavia Butler and others, A Black Audio Films Production,1996.
Thomas, H., The Body, Dance and Cultural Theory, Palgrave, Houndmills 2003.
Warner, M., Alone of All Her Sex – The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary [1976], Vintage, London 2000.

Rosella Simonari, PhD, is a scholar specialised in dance and cultural history, literary, gender and postcolonial studies. In 2012 she gained her PhD at the University of Essex, UK, with a research project on Letter to the World, a choreography Martha Graham created on Emily Dickinson. In 2015 she published a revised version in Italian, titled, Letter to the World: Martha Graham danza Emily Dickinson. In 2008-2009 she took part to an international debate on the literary notion of the New Italian Epic writing two essays, one on writer Babsi Jones and the other on gender. She has taught the Dance and mime course at the University of Macerata, Italy, for four years (2003-2007). Since 2006 she has contributed to the redescovery of dancer painter Alberto Spadolini on whom she is writing a book. She has published peer-reviewed essays on Martha Graham and Carmen. She has presented papers at conferences in Italy, the UK, Spain, The Netherlands and the USA. She has collaborated with ballet-dance magazine for about ten years (2001-2011) and with Leggere Donna (2001-2015) for almost fifteen years. Her research interest is the relationship between dance and culture, dance and literature (specifically dance adaptation). Her blogs on dance are: www.adancehistory.blogspot.com and www.storiadelladanza.blogspot.com.

Continua
Afrofuturism

From slaveships to spaceships. Afrofurism and sonic imaginaries. by Lorenzo Montefinese

afrofuturismo
From slaveships to spaceships.
Afrofuturism and sonic imaginaries
by Lorenzo Montefinese

«What does it mean to be human?» asked Mark Sinker back in 1992, envisioning a thread that connected the dots between science fiction and slavery. Both are encounters with the threshold of humanness. Hence the parallel between the slave and the alien, the two most recurrent categories of non-humans. If otherness ties together the alien and the slave, another figure lurks at the crossroads of reality and fiction. It is the robot. The word “robot” comes from the Czech “robota” (meaning work) and surfaced in literature when Karel Čapek used it to name automatized workers in his 1920 play R.U.R. Being a forced laborer, then, is the quality which posits the parallel between the robot and the slave.
This uncanny equation between the slave, the alien, and the robot forms the loose basic tenet from which a parallel, spurious, unabashedly subversive strain of black thought and cultural production has sprung at least since the 1950s: Afrofuturism, whose developments and intertwining with afrodiasporic music – and techno in particular – have been thoroughly investigated by Claudia Attimonelli (Attimonelli, C., 2018).
According to common sense, there is nothing more irreconcilable than whatever is afro-related and futurism. Afrofuturism parts way with this established misconception – itself a futuristic act – and over a constellation of artforms and stances, tries to imagine alternate realities and possible futures from a perspective which reframes (and often goes beyond) the boundaries and the subject positions of blackness. A term coined by cultural critic Mark Dery in 1994, afrofuturism manifests itself in a repertoire of cultural forms in which African descendants and technology are not anymore mutually exclusive: «African-American signification that appropriates images of technology and a prosthetically enhanced future might, for want of a better term, be called ‘Afrofuturism’». Dery’s essay was mostly focused on black science fiction, yet music is no less a privileged vessel for afrofuturist propagation.
Afrofuturism in music usually combines a reliance on technological processes of recording and producing with a science fiction imaginary. Technology is reappropriated and misused by black musicians. The music itself and its underlying fictionalized narrative are otherworldly: at once alien and alienizing. Yesterday and tomorrow merge in a tireless undulation between a reframing of the past and an urge to provide sounds, images and concepts for the future. From slavery abduction to the exploration of unseen and unheard sonic worlds. From slaveships to spaceships.
Afrofuturism is a retroactive concept. It was already in effect, and it has been for decades, before it was conceptually theorized. Its ex-postness doesn’t make it any weaker; it attests to things that acquire new meanings once observed from different angles.
In his 1992 article for The Wire (Sinker, M., 1992), Mark Sinker writes about Black Science Fiction, slavery, and the futuristic, otherworldly quality of Sun Ra, George Clinton, hip hop and techno. Black SF is characterized by the acknowledgement «that Apocalypse already happened». Stripped of its own past and memory, Black culture in America survived «by syncretism, by bricolage, by a day-to-day programme of appropriation and adaptation». Mutant, self-replicating, hybrid, alien: «Africa and America – and so by extension Europe and Asia – are already in their various ways Alien Nation». From alienation to Alien Nation.
However, Sinker never used the word afrofuturism. It was another Mark, Dery, who minted the term in a 1994 conversation piece with Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate and Tricia Rose (Dery, M., 1994). In his view, black sci-fi auteurs like Octavia Butler, as well as sci-fi comics revolving around black characters, are afrofuturist insofar they depict possible futures and alternate realities in which blacks are empowered and freed from the enduring oppression they’re subjected to. To find inspiration, African Americans had to look no further than their racially segregated reality: «Black people live the estrangement that science fiction writers imagine» said Greg Tate. From the overtly sociopolitical topics addressed by literature to the more elusive musical landscape, the focus remains on technological appropriation and the visionary power of shaping new sounds and concepts.

Drexciyan soldiers

A key role in theorizing and understanding black culture is provided by Paul Gilroy’s concept of the black Atlantic (Gilroy, P., 1993). Emphasizing the Middle Passage as the event which erased past histories for the abducted slaves and at the same time allowed a transcultural renegotiation of black identity, Gilroy proposes a new framework for black subjectivities and cultural practices. The black Atlantic is considered as a «transcultural, international formation» characterized by a «rhizomorphic, fractal structure». Focusing on the Atlantic route means highlighting the role of the ships: not only vessels that brought labor force, ships transported cultural artifacts, traditions and practices as well, allowing them to survive, replicate, contaminate one another, alongside American, British and Western cultures in general.
It is this mixture of African, American, Caribbean and British cultures that will breed afrofuturist music and nourish its imaginary over the two sides of the Atlantic.
We can thus conceive music, and the pure physical qualities of sound itself, as a device to carry (or blur, or erase altogether) identities and racial subjectivities. If the creation of race is a technology, as Ytasha Womack argues (Womack, Ytasha., 2016), sonic afrofuturism is based on new usages and designs of this technology.
Conjuring sound technologies and a robotic, cosmic, interdimensional imaginary leads to the creation of fictionalized (sound)worlds, or what Kodwo Eshun terms sonic fiction (Eshun, K., 1998). Writing in a style as much lysergic and visionary as the music he presents, Eshun advances new models for deeper and kin-aesthetic understanding of “futurhythmachines”, “sampladelia”, “mixadelic universe”, “mutantextures” and “mythScience”. From the cosmic jazz of Sun Ra, to the sculpted beats of drum’n’bass, Eshun surveys the radical developments of black music as it emancipates itself from black traditional heritage and musical aesthetics. No longer bound to the streets, departing from the Soul era, afrofuturist music sympathizes with the alien, relies on the human-machine interface, and plays with history and linear temporalities.
Let us now dive deep into the “discontinuum of AfroDiasporic Futurism”.
When we talk about sonic fiction, about the ability to build parallel universes, and AlterRealities to unleash otherworldly messages and music, the prime example is Sun Ra. Born and raised in Alabama, by the 1950s he was taking jazz into experimental terrains with his orchestra, The Arkestra. Ra’s free jazz was a cosmic jazz that incorporated electronic elements in his compositions.

Sun Ra
Sun Ra

Sun Ra was cosmic because of the futuristic, freeform character of his music, as well as because of the imaginary evoked through albums and songs titles. Naming his band The Arkestra resurrected the ghost of slaveships. Now taking off for intergalactic travels, the Arkestra is the metaphorical and concrete vessel – through unpredictable music and avant-gardist performances – for entering other realms. Sun Ra himself stopped identifying as a human being and first declared he was abducted by aliens on another planet, then claimed he was born on Saturn. Casting aside his very humanness, let alone his belonging to black people, Ra identified with the mysterious Other, an alien Godlike deity who came to earth in order to restore harmony and enlighten people through his music. The albums recorded with the Arkestra betray a yearning for Otherness that surfaces already in their titles. The futuristic sounds of Sun Ra, Astro black, Atlantis, Super-sonic sounds, Cosmic tones for mental therapy, We travel the space ways, Space is the place. Their covers feature images of planets, galactic spaces, psychedelic and surreal environments. Even before listening to them, one is visually and conceptually driven in the sonic worlds they build.

But Sun Ra’s AlteRealities are open portals to the past as well as the future. Temporalities are jumbled, as the imagery of arcane Pharaonic splendor is reactivated. Referencing ancient Egypt is a device to obliterate more traditional accounts of Africanity: The Pharaohs were godlike creatures leading a technologically advanced society, and this imagery is projected onto the future of sci-fi topics and the unforeseen wildness of free and cosmic, electronically infused jazz. The MythScience of Sun Ra permeates the stage as well, as him and the Arkestra used to perform live dressed in glittering African clothes.

The shift from a series of concepts and a coherent AfroTopic imagery to a proper saga leads us to the funk of Parliament and Funkadelic, and their mastermind: George Clinton.
P-funk alienizes funk. P-funk’s sonic fiction is another tale of spaceships. In this case, it is the Mothership from which Clinton emerges, that lands on Earth craving the funk as an antidote against the rigidity of un-funky coolness. In P-funk mythology-funkology, funk becomes an intoxicating substance, the truth, a weapon.

Parliament band

Across several albums released by Funkadelic and Parliament, Clinton shapes a funk mythology, where his alter egos such as Star Child and Dr. Funkenstein are alien creatures craving, cloning, and spreading the funk. On Funkadelic’s “Mommy what’s a funkadelic?” he sings «By the way, my name is Funk…I am not of your world… I am Funkadelic, dedicated to the feeling of good». The liner notes on their Standing on the verge of getting it on state that George Clinton «begat Funkadelic to restore Order Within the Universe». The Mothership, which gives the name to Parliament’s Mothership Connection, is another afrofuturist iconic spaceship. It is from the Mothership, “home of extraterrestrial brothers, dealers of funky music”, that a connection with earth is established through the broadcasting of radio WEFUNK. The aliens on board “have returned to claim the Pyramids” and they command people on earth to “give up the funk”. The saga continues on The clones of Dr. Funkenstein. The Prelude of the album extends the myth further back in time and placing “Specially-designed Afronauts” as carrier of “Clone Funk”.

Together with the Arkestra and the Mothership connection, there is a third vessel from which afrofuturist excursions into sound took place. It is the Black Ark. Situated in Kingston, Jamaica, it is the recording studio where Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry would practice his dub sorceries.

Black Ark

With dub, the hierarchy between the musician/artist and the engineer/technician is erased, if not reversed. Dub is the science of the mixing board, the technologies of recording turned into creative tools to subvert songs and create new ones through processes of subtractions and additions. With dub, it’s not only the voice that fades away, but it’s all the surrounding sound environment – bass, drums, keyboards, horns, guitars – that is at once enhanced and rendered ghost-like via echo, delay and other effects, as to create an enveloping sonic womb. Discovered accidentally, the art of dub rose to prominence thanks to the genius of sound-engineers like King Tubby, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Scientist.

Lee Scratch Perry

Dub sounded intrinsically new because of the scientific, almost magic treatment the recorded audio was subjected to. Perry was the wizard who twisted knobs and tinkered with the mixing board to shape sounds coming from outer space, and the Black Ark was more a scientific laboratory than a studio. The imagery of science and of the engineer-turned-artist-turned-scientist was kept alive by Scientist. The titles and the covers (although these were mostly made for the British Greensleeves label) of his albums depict a comics-style sci-fi outer world in which the mixing board often becomes the controls of spaceships and Scientist fights against fantastic enemies.

It is crucial to mention dub in an expanded account of afrodiasporic sonic futurism because it is dub that definitively sharpens the figure of the producer as a scientist, and because dub is a main example of subversive (and randomly discovered) usages of technologies that shape new sounds and entire genres, as we’re going to see with electro, hip hop and acid.
At the beginning of the 1980s, Roland manufactured two low-price pieces of equipment which unexpectedly twisted the course of popular music. The Roland TR-808, a drum machine; and the TB-303, a bassline generator. Both were supposed to emulate real instruments to accompany musicians. But, given their relative low fidelity to the sounds they should have emulated (808 and 909), and the amount of effort required for a proper use (303), they ended up creating new and more exciting sounds. 808 drums sounded artificial, thus unleashing the creativity of some African Americans who exploited their potential for robotic and alien sounds.

The 808 beats birthed electro, which was the first electronically based black music. The Egyptian Lover made the 808 his revered instruments, while Afrika Bambaataa realized one of the most memorable electro hit with “Planet rock” (which covered the melody of Trans Europe Express by Kraftwerk, a linchpin of European electronic futurism). The Egyptian Lover and Bambaataa imaginary conjured a fully machine-made music with references to Africa, and they showed how blacks from underprivileged neighborhoods could be at the forefront of artistic innovation.
Acid is another landmark in the canon of technological misuses and reappropriation, as it was thanks to a second-hand 303 that the Chicago group Phuture invented acid house. Why try to emulate the sound of real instruments when you can let the machine take the sounds to previously unheard degrees of estrangement? The 303 basslines are piercing, gurgling, intoxicating, constantly yet subtly morphing over a four-to-the-floor thumping kick drum. Phuture translated their stage name into the music they produced, the 303 mis-used and taken further away from its prescribed usage.

Hip Hop as well couldn’t have risen without a creative engagement with producing and playback technologies. Isolating the breakbeats of funk songs and playing only these segments; prolonging them by playing two copies of the same record on two turntables; and scratching: all these innovations at the basis of hip hop are radical acts of conceiving the turntable as an instrument. Moreover, the technique of scratching, just like dubbing, was discovered by accident. Relying on these unforeseen usages of media, hip hop pioneers such as Dj Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash became the ambassadors of a new African American street culture.
But hip-hop culture was shaped by another technological artefact: the sampler. With it, rap producers were able to craft new beats cutting and looping selected segments of existing songs.

Twisting temporalities, fragments of the past were stitched together to create new music. Producers sampled from the past of black music and from the most disparate corners of pop culture, and Eshun observes a sheer futuristic stance especially in the beats of Mantronix and The Bomb Squad, or the idiosyncratic rap and personality of Kool Keith.
Another sonic revolution was blossoming in the Midwest. Detroit gave birth to techno music. Juan Atkins, both with Rik Davies as Cybotron, and solo as Model500 and other aliases, pioneered the new sound of Detroit – as the name of the first commercial compilation showcasing the then-emerging genre goes. Cybotron renamed Detroit “Techno city” and fused European synth pop and new wave with African American electro and funk. The result was a futuristic music which didn’t sound black nor white, a «complete mistake […] like George Clinton and Kraftwerk caught in an elevator, with only a sequencer to keep them company», as Derrick May put it. May himself and Kevin Saunderson formed the first wave Detroit techno trio alongside Atkins, but it was the latter’s output that propelled afrofuturism the most, concept-wise and music-wise. Saying goodbye to black traditional aesthetics and going in a different direction than hip hop’s street credibility, Atkins looked at outer space and automatized technology.
If African Americans had been subjected to alienations, Atkins and techno fully embraced the alien. The man became cyborg (hence the cybo- in Cybotron). “Cosmic cars”, “Cosmic raindace”, “Techno city” reflect this imaginary, and so does the cover of Enter. When Atkins started producing as Model 500, he relinquished his human identity at all to identify with the machine. His first tracks, “No UFO’s”, “Future”, “Time Space Transmat”, released on his label Metroplex, evoke future metropolis and outer space even before listening to their syncopated and futuristic electro music.

At the beginning of the 90s, two groups from Detroit added a political and social consciousness to the cutting edginess of electro and techno music: Underground Resistance and Drexciya.
Founded by Mike Banks, Robert Hood and Jeff Mills, Underground Resistance was a collective and record label.Their name, their music and their artworks exude a militant attitude oriented against entertainment media “audiovisual programmers”. Theirs is a sonic war conducted through highly evocative releases and uncompromised music. UR imaginary is populated by cyborg fighters, human-animal mutants, and afrowarriors involved in telematic sabotages. Their releases have titles such as Punisher, Riot, Analog assassin, Interstellar fugitives, Knights of the jaguar, Message to the Majors.

While hip hop usually gravitates around the local space of the street, UR warriors sought to pervade outer space, progressively shifting from Nation 2 Nation to World 2 World to Galaxy 2 Galaxy. UR continues the cyborg mutation of blackness and, together with a rhythmic mechanization, gives up human individuality in favour of impersonal alter egos. Terminator, X-101, X-102, The Aztec Mystic, The Suburban Knight, The Infiltrator are the creatures that populates UR universe, whose military base/recording studio is aptly named “Black Planet studios”.
Emerging from the collective’s orbit was one act which took afrodiasporic sonic fiction to the extreme: Drexciya, the duo of James Stinson and Gerald Donald. Drexciya envisioned a whole mythology about drexciyans, whose ongoing developments were reported in records sleeve notes and labels, and were visually conceived by Abdul Qadim Haqq (who also drew covers for Model 500, UR and Detroit main techno producers).

The Drexciyan myth begins during the Middle Passage, when pregnant women on slaveships were thrown overboard. In the depths of the Atlantic, they birthed the mutant race of Drexciyans, inhabitants of the abysses. According to Eshun, Drexciya revives an Atlantean Aquatopia, with each EP navigating the depths of the Black Atlantic and titles that transmit this imagined geography and underwater epic through audio frequencies and wavebands. Tracks like “Positron island”, “Intensified magnetron”, “Aquabahn”, “Red Hills of Lardossa”, “Andreaen Sand Dunes” or “Soul of the sea”; and records named Deep Sea dweller, Bubble metropolis, The Unknown aquazone, The Journey Home, Hydro Doorways, Black Sea, are only a tiny portion of the Drexciya reappropriation of the Middle Passage narrative, an unprecedented attempt to link Middle Passage slave abduction to a fictionalized audio ecosystem.
Another Detroit techno sci-fi obsessed is former-UR member Jeff Mills. On one hand Mills stripped down and rigidified techno into a stark, restless minimalism, thus bringing techno further into alien territories; on the other, he scored more ambient-leaning soundtracks for sci-fi movies and explicitly dealt with outer space imagery.

From his live performances where he acts as a robotic and flawless mixing-machine jostling between turntables and the Roland TR-909, to more recent album artworks and soundtrack projects he’s embarked on – such as The Jungle Planet, Fantastic Voyage, Woman In The Moon, Planets – Mills has rendered techno a sonic vessel to escape earth and avoid musical binarism that tried to anchor genres to ethnicity.
Black Atlantic futurism wasn’t limited to one side of the Ocean only; it traveled along with people crossing the Atlantic eastwards, landing on Great Britain with Jamaican emigrants after WWII. Jamaicans brought their soundsystem culture with them. In the late 80s-early 90s, their bass-heavy sonic heritage merged with British rave culture, leading to a breakbeat-hardcore offshoot, jungle music. Jungle, and the overtly Jamaican-infused ragga jungle, featured hyperaccelerated breakbeats that represented a perceptual shock because of their inhuman speed and syncopation. By the middle of the decade, jungle evolved into a technically refined, less dark and jazz-tinged genre, drum’n’bass. It kept the tempo high and aimed at an extreme sophistication of breakbeats, a true breakbeat science. Jungle and drum’n’bass can be considered afrofuturist insofar as they rely on extreme technological virtuosity, reinforcing the imagery of the electronic music producer as a scientist locked in his studio-laboratory. Samplers, hardware and computer softwares are the tools which allowed early jungle producers and d’n’b icons like Goldie, 4Hero and A Guy Called Gerald to craft hypercomplex and sped-up breakbeats. Goldie declared his beats were sculpted in 4D; A Guy Called Gerald heralded this breakbeat-based music as a Black Secret Technology, while 4Hero were reaching a Parallel Universe. Jungle and d’n’b brought the past of black music – typical funk breakbeats, Jamaican toasting, soul and jazz orchestration – into the posthuman future and techno-dominated landscape of the ‘90s through a process of technological surgery operated on the source materials.

Erykah Badu
Outkast

It is fundamental to underline that, as with acid house, electro and techno, this music appealed to, and was developed by, white producers and audiences as well. And this happened mostly because these sounds that blossomed from Afrodiasporic artists and communities managed to bypass – willingly or not – racial essentialism in the name of a future-driven, technologically-shaped sound. Interracial, international, intergalactic.
Afrofuturist traces are scattered through 1990s and 2000s hip hop and r&b as well, some notable cases being Missy Elliott in the “Supa Dupa Fly” video; Erykah Badu’s video for “Didn’t cha know” or her New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh cover; and OutKast’s artworks for ATLiens and Aquemini.
Janelle Monáe has been infusing her neo-soul/r&b with afrofuturist themes and imaginary which range from sci-fi cover artworks to socially and politically engaged lyrics. In recent years, R&B and pop music icons have moved toward afrofuturism, or at least its visual aesthetics: Rihanna, Beyoncè and FKA Twigs have sported afrofuturist looks in photoshoots, music videos and live appearances.
Attention and debates over afrofuturism have been especially rescued after the success of Black Panther. The movie sparked plenty of media recognition, allowing afrofuturist concepts and cultural products to reach a wider audience.

Beyonce
FKA Twigs

There are many more musicians, in the present and in the past, involved with this movement and its audio-visual aesthetics, let alone the vast amount of writers, theoreticians, activist and artists committed to a thorough investigation of what afrofuturism entails in social life and how projections of possible, better futures for African and African-descended people may look like.
Musical afrofuturism, for its part, helps us to understand how science fiction imaginary, or technological development and creative misuses, can be framed within an afrodiasporic perspective. The musicians introduced here, although belonging to different decades, genres and countries, nonetheless share a music-making mindset that points towards a technological emancipatory potential, as well as a desire to stop identifying with the alienated and dispossessed Black. The cosmos becomes a possibility space; African ancient signifiers are teleported in future sceneries; new techniques of production unveils new kin-aesthetics; the scientific progress and literary fiction are translated onto the media and sonic planes.
Space is the place and Black secret technology is how to get there.
The Metroplex of the Phuture is populated by Interstellar Fugitives, as the Mothership Connection is by aliens.
From alienation to alien-nation(s).
From slaveships to spaceships.

References
Attimonelli, C., Techno: ritmi afrofuturisti, Meltemi, Milano, 2018
Sinker, M., Loving the alien: in advance of the landing, The Wire 96, 1992
Dery, M., Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate, and Tricia Rose, Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture, Duke University Press (pp. 179-222), 1994
Gilroy, P., The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, Verso, London, 1993
Womack, Y., quoted in Billet, A., On “new” Afrocentric modernism, 2016.
Eshun, K., More Brilliant Than The Sun. Adventures in Sonic Fiction, Quartet Books, London, 1998

Lorenzo Montefinese holds a master’s degree in semiotics from the University of Bologna and a bachelor’s degree in visual arts from IUAV University of Venice. His research fields revolve around the intersections between popular music, especially electronic music, and aesthetic and cultural theory. He has worked on the aesthetic of repetition in minimalist art and music, on memorial practices in XXI century popular music, and is currently conducting research on afrofuturism and black diasporic music.

Continua
Afrofuturism

A brilliant blackness emerging from the deep Sea: an ancient story of slavery told to repair the future. by Claudia Attimonelli & Abu Qadim Haqq

afrofuturismo
A brilliant blackness emerging from the deep Sea:
an ancient story of slavery told to repair the future
by Claudia Attimonelli & Abu Qadim Haqq

The Book of Drexciya, original idea and painting by Abu Qadim Haqq.
Layouts: Abu Qadim Haqq.
Authors: Abu Qadim Haqq, Dai Sato.
Pencilers: Leo Rodrigues, Leonardo Gondim, Milton Estevam.
Inkers: Leonardo Gondim, Milton Estevam, Alan Oldham.
Colorists: Hector Rubilar, Danierl Oliviera, Abu Qadim Haqq.
Letterer: Abu Qadim Haqq.
Publisher: Tresor, Berlin, november 2019.

The Book of Drexciya tells ancient stories coming to the surface.
The twelve images are part of the project The Drexciyan Empire: five chapters of the first volume concerning the birth of Drexciyans from the ancient times to the present. Drexciya can be considered one of the most powerful imagery of Afrofuturism.

The book is a graphic novel, whose beginning is the tragedy of the Middle Passage: African pregnant women thrown off the slave ships, gave birth underwater to amphibious creatures. They could breath as they did in their mothers’ wombs, they had webbed hands and feet and became the drexciyan wave jumpers: great warriors of the abyss.
The myth is well known, as found in some pages of Beloved (Toni Morrison, 1987), where the theme of the memory layered in the abyss and the relationship between past and future of African American culture are inhabited by the iconography of water. Abu Qadim Haqq, American visual artist from Detroit, Michigan, started to spread this imagery, that nobody called Afrofuturist in those days, at the end of the 1980s, along with the birth of techno music and electro.
He is considered by the Drexciyan Empire one of their agents on the surface, graduate of Doctor Blowfin’s Science Academy. Qadim Haqq, also know as The Ancient, has always been inspired during his childhood by science fiction and comics, Greek and Northern mythology of the past along with Japanese animation.

Book 1.
Chapter 1: The Origin of the Story

This was our beginning

It was the electro duo from Detroit named Drexciya, formed by James Stinson and Gerald Donald, who started the Drexciyans mythography throughout their discography. It was revealed in the inner sleeve notes of the album called The Quest (1997). Through a map of the diasporic black culture, Drexciya illustrated four phases: The Slave Trade, Migration Route of Rural Blacks to Northern Cities, Techno Leaves Detroit, Spreads Worldwide, and The Journey Home (Future). The return to what is perceived as home, is located in the future: it is for this reason that drexciyan music is a “sonic fiction” (Eshun 1998) which moves between black African roots and the contemporary american routes, surfing with sounds in a dimensional jumphole.
The afrofuturism in drexciyan poetics is made evident thanks to the brilliant hand of Qadim Haqq who helped those stories to be translated into a deep and complex imagery for the first time.

Chapter 2: Dr. Blowfin discovers Neptun’s Liar

One of the founders of the Drexciyan Empire is the diabolical Doctor Blowfin. Drexciyan computer systems and networks are based on Genetic Intelligence, DNA matrix systems created by Doctor Blowfin, Master of Alchemy and Quantum Genetics. The entire Drexciyan Empire is powered by algae, seaweed and polymono plexusgel

The Wavejumpers

You must face the power of the Black Wave of Lardossa before you become a Drexciyan Wavejumper

Along the routes traced on the map of The Quest album, it is possible to meet many different creatures and warriors, from different ages and spaces, such as the Wavejumpers and the Deep Sea Dwellers (both of them are titles and recurrent topics in Drexciya’s tracks).

Dance night in Drexciya

Life in Drexciya is more than just war and science. Drexciyans also love music and dancing and do so every chance they can get

As noted in the introduction of the documentary The Last Angel of History by John Akomfrah (1996), the legend of Robert Johnson says that he sold his soul at the crossroads of the Deep South: «[…] and in return he was given the secret of a black technology, a black secret technology, that we know to be known as the blues, the blues began jazz, the blues began soul, the blues began hip-hop, the blues began r&b. Now, flash-forward, 200 years into the future, the next figure, another bad boy, scavenger poet figure, is called the Dated Thief, 200 years into the future, is told a story: – If you can find the crossroads, a crossroads, this crossroads, if you can make an archeological dig, into this crossroads, you’ll find fragments, techno-fossils, and if you put those elements, those fragments together, you find a code, crack that code, and you’ll have the keys to your future. You’ve got one clue, and it is a phrase, mothership connection» (1996).
Electronic music composed by Drexciya is a vision of that code, a sound of the techno-fossils, a medium to communicate through different time and space along the geographical diasporic area.

Chapter five:
Bubble Metropolis

Commander of Bubble One

Commander of Bubble One, control center of the Aquabahn and all of its aqua wormhole gateways. She is X205 and at the beginning of the track entitled Bubble Metropolis she alerts the visitors that they are crossing the border, but her speech is gentle, she says: «This is Drexciyan Cruiser Control, Bubble One, to Lardossen Cruiser 8-203X, please decrease your speed to 1.788.4 kilobahn, thank you. Lardossen Cruiser 8-203X, please use extra caution as you pass the aqua construction site on the side of the aquabahn. I repeat, proceed with caution. […] Have a nice stay here in Drexciya, if ou have any problems let me know» (Drexciya feat. X205, Bubble Metropolis introduction, 1993).

All captions by: Drexciyan Empire
Images: courtesy of The Drexciyan Empire, Abu Qadim Haqq.

Essential Bibliography and sources
Attimonelli C.,
(2008), Techno. Ritmi afrofuturisti, Meltemi, Milano, 2018.
Benedetti A., (2006), Mondo techno, Stampa Alternativa, Viterbo, 2018.
Eshun K., More brilliant than the Sun. Adventures in Sonic Fiction, Quartet Book, London, 1998.
Drexciya Research Lab
Gaskins N. R., Deep sea dwellers. Drexciya and the sonic third space, in “Shima Journal”, Shima Volume 10 Number 2 2016.
Haqq A. Q., 1989 – 2014, 25 years of Techno Art, Third Earth Visual Art, 2014.
Morrison T., Beloved, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1987.
Zlatopolsky A., Redbull Music Academy, 2014.

Videography
Abu Qadim Haqq talks with C. Attimonelli, L. Montefinese at Exp Records, Bari, 2019. VIDEO edt. RKO.
James Stinson (Drexciya) 1999 phone interview w/Andrew Duke, S. Rennicks, 2011.
Techno Art: dall’immaginario afrofuturista al Book of Drexciya,
Abu Qadim Haqq – live painting, Andrea Benedetti – djset, Macro Asilo, Roma, 2019, VIDEO, edt. Monkyes VideoLab.

Discography and iconography by Drexciya
Bubble Metropolis, EP Underground Resistance, 1993.
The Quest, Submerge, 1997.

A deep thought goes to James Stinson (Drexciya) who left this world on September the 3rd in 2002, without him and his desire to tell the stories of the diaspora and the aquatopia, the underwater world of Drexciyans would still be hidden. Drexciya, through the Afro-futuristic medium of electronic music, created a whole universe of hope, the hope that a new “sonic fiction” may emerge from the Mediterreanean Sea.

Abdul Qadim Haqq (born December 24, 1968), is an American illustrator, painter, visual artist who was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He is considered Detroit’s number one ambassador of art for world-renowned techno music artists. Haqq’s artwork is featured worldwide on classic records by Detroit Techno record labels, namely the records of J. Atkins, Metroplex, D. May, Transmat, Underground Resistance, K. Saunderson, C. Craig. Abdul Qadim Haqq has been serving the techno music community through Techno Visual Art since 1989. His artwork continues to inspire fans all over the world.

Claudia Attimonelli is researcher in Theories of Language and Sciences of Signes and teaches Multimedia Studies and Visual Culture, Semiology of Cinema and Audiovisuals at the University of Bari, Aldo Moro. She runs MEM, Mediateca Emeroteca Musicale in Puglia. Her research is disseminated between electronic culture, art and media. Among her publications: La banalità del malessere: junkie (2016); The migrating sense of photography in JR and Banksy (2016); Pornocultura. Viaggio in fondo alla carne (with V. Susca, 2016); Techno. Ritmi Afrofuturisti (2008-2018).

Continua
Afrofuturism

Black Futurity and the Sublime. by Camille DeBose

afrofuturismo
Black Futurity and the Sublime
by Camille DeBose

Black futurity


“Saw it in a store, one day
Thought it might make me play
Future music all for you”
(Earth, Wind and Fire 1977)

Black futurity is often recognized by its ability to employ artifacts of the past in the creation of future thought. In the song Kalimba Story, Earth Wind and Fire praise the Kalimba, an ancient African instrument, for its ability to create “future music,” noting its particular vibrational qualities. The melodic resonance of the notes seems to flow outward in ever expanding waves like ripples through space and time. As of late, I find myself reaching back toward ancient things to help me glimpse possible futures. The elements, more ancient than life itself, have become the curve in my lens.

Ladan Osman, Screen Grab

In my work The Poetic and The Visual, fire, water, earth, and air fill the frame in echo of the experiences that have tuned my creative mind. They reach back in reference but also hurtle forward toward my future viewer with new messages that I could never foresee. Because this film is a true collaboration, the words of Ms. Osman further impact the images onscreen, providing evidence of the dialectic between her thoughts and mine. We are interdisciplinary at a time when interdisciplinarity is not welcome. Currently there exist clearly delineated structures in art production which the futurist in me finds wanting. How can we see if there are boundaries on all sides? How can we hear if some sonic registers are not allowed? How can we feel if certain classes of textures are absent by exclusion? Visual art and poetry are driven by stimuli. Art is a response to provocation. I choose to be provoked by the storm and the expanse in an effort to clarify the messages I send to the future. I seek the Sublime as a source of destruction and genesis knowing it will strip me clean of the identities imposed upon me which limit my ability to be an open space.


The Sublime

«Terror is the ruling principle of the sublime» (Burke, 1767). The raging wind, burning fire, and crashing waves are so often characters in the Sublime. The expansive desolation of deserts, the oppressive beauty of the bayou, or the raging sea are all sources of the Sublime. These are places of inexpressible beauty and terror. They are inhospitable to human life and yet I am drawn to their terrible perfection. Each encounter tears at my socially constructed self and I am introduced, for a short time, to my fundamental being. A being who can see well beyond the constructed parameters of our existence. As a way into our discussion we can consider Ian Boyd Whyte’s, assertion: «[…] the sublime [offers] a vehicle with which to question the dominant view of human agency on which the modern economic and political order had been established. Dismissing as reductive and one- dimensional the modern conception of the human condition as rational, progressive, and benign, the postmodern critique found in the sublime a device for exploring more profound and complex layers of meaning: the heroic, the mysterious, and the numinous» (Whyte, 2011).

Camille DeBose, Salt Flats

For Lyotard we are “provoked” by the sublime. The sublime requires, demands, and causes one to be present. «Here. I am, here […]» (Lyotard, 1988). It is that sense of presence and the expansive landscapes which seem most capable of generating the differend, that moment of obliterative clarity which makes space for sublimity. «The ways in which we communicate are so ordered. Be it loose or rigid, we speak structure. For Lyotard, every phrase within a genre of discourse exists within a regimen: There are a number of phrase regimens: Knowing, describing, recounting, questioning, showing, ordering. etc. Phrases from heterogenous regimens cannot be translated from one into the other. They can be linked one onto the other in accordance with an end fixed by the genre of discourse» (Differend, xii).
So, the genre of discourse supplies the rules by which phrases may be linked. A structuring structure of structures all leading to the end goal of the discourse that could be as simple as a question answered or an exchange of instructional steps. But there are instances when these structuring structures fail to carry discourse to a satisfactory conclusion (Differend, 80). Upon encountering a thing which cannot be represented, one experiences an imposition of “silence.” Using the inexpressible horror of Auschwitz as an example, Lyotard writes: «The silence that surround the phrase, ‘Auschwitz was the extermination camp’, is not a state of mind, it is the sign that something remains to be phrased which is not» (Differend, 57). The horror of the Shoah creates a void in discourse nullifying Foucault’s “truth games” or Lyotard’s “language games” and “phrase regimens.” This is the differend. I am interested in the destructive dynamic of the differend. Is there utility in the silence?
An encounter with the Sublime often results in an inability to express what is seen, heard, and felt in that instance. If we are to be guided by Lyotard, then he suggests the goal of art is not communication (cultural production). For how can we name the unnameable or speak of what cannot be spoken about? Instead, the task of the arts is to «seek out their own conditions of possibility, their own rules, to generate occurrences before knowing the rules of this generativity» (Trifonova, 2007).
Even within the space of the differend — that space without discourse, there is discourse. A libidinal dialectic. There is recognition and sensation and bodily response. In the presence of the Sublime it is not your flesh that feels small. Your physical self is not obliterated by the terror and beauty to which you bear witness. It is your socialized, contextualized self that is torn asunder and rendered ridiculous. The forces which created your classed, gendered, and raced self reveal themselves to be arbitrary and capricious.

Technologies of the Self
In 1982 Michel Foucault presented a seminar at the University of Vermont. He spoke on what he described as “Technologies of the Self ”: «My objective for more than twenty-five years has been to sketch out a history of the different ways in our culture that humans develop knowledge about themselves: economics, biology, psychiatry, medicine, and penology. The main point is not to accept this knowledge at face value but to analyze these so-called sciences as very specific “truth games” related to specific techniques that human beings use to understand themselves» (Foucault 1982, pp.17-18).
I find this notion of “truth games” to be a critical component in my exploration of futurity as well as my embrace of the ways in which the Sublime obliterates context. What we know of ourselves and others is, arguably, the result of an adherence to the parameters set forth by these games. We experience a thing and then translate it into language only after referencing our currently known language structures. By prompting us to recognize these games Foucault also suggests their impermanence.
The self can be changed. It can be worked upon. It can be dismantled and reassembled in ways which cannot be contextualized. For Foucault, Technologies of the self «[…] permit individuals to effect […] a certain number of operations on their own bodies, and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being […]» (Foucault 1982, pp 18). One need only develop a “technique” with which to act upon the body «[…] so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, or immortality» (Foucault 1982, pp 18). I engage the Sublime and let it change my eye. I let it shift my notions of the frame and acceptable levels of exposure. The Sublime has become my chosen “technique” through which I come to better understand myself.

Camille DeBose, Ruby Beach

I am emptied out and then refined by the terror and beauty of the Sublime. In the Fall of 2016 I visited for the first time, the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The flats are a place of desolation. There is no flora or fauna because the physical conditions of the space do not permit life. And yet, this open space was gratuitously beautiful. In this place land and sky met in sumptuous reflection and I found myself awed while also knowing I was in a place inhospitable to humanity. In my work I see the Sublime as both destructive and generative. It makes and unmakes then remakes. I find now, that I am eager to insert the horizon into my frame.

Ladan Osman, Waves

The Habitus
The Sublime works on you. It works on your habitus. That «[…] system of generative schemes […]» described by Pierre Bourdieu «[…] which makes possible the free production of all the thoughts, perceptions, and actions […]» which conform to the conditions of its making. The Habitus is the receptacle of our knowledge; not intellectual but embodied (Bourdieu 1990, p. 55). It is the belief system that lives beneath our skin as a result of inculcation. The result of gentle but consistent pressure applied over time.
My habitus is black. It is seasoned by the visual, sonic, and haptic landscape of my life. The temporal and experiential ways we engage our realities has left me marked by many things including Earth, Wind, and Fire, the briny waves of the Pacific Ocean, and the electronic crooning of Zapp and Roger. These things are deeply embedded within me. They order my thoughts and grace my steps. Because the habitus «[…] is constituted in practice and is always oriented towards practical functions» (Bourdieu 1990, p. 52). Psychedelic Funk and Neo-Soul play out in my gestures, my posture, and my patterns of speech.
The Sublime triggers inculcation in reverse. The belief systems so deeply etched within as a result of our entire social lives begin to erode. In the space of the differend all social context disappears, and yet the rhythms in my soul remain. The differend is something like a primal, contextual void. There is nothing except the realization of “I am”. The Sublime fractures us, propelling us into the differend as nothing but what we are, temporarily. We cannot stay within that contextual void for any length of time but we are nevertheless changed by our brief visit. I have found that there are two levels of imprinting upon the human mind and soul. The surface, social self is the shallower imprint susceptible to dismantling and destruction. But there is a second, deeper imprint pressed into us through drums and songs and stories and love. I have no language for this mark but I have witnessed it within myself and it has become the source from which I draw in the creation of visual work.

Black Futurity and the Social Artifact
Engaging with the Sublime is not quiet. It is not an ‘out of body’ moment of silence. It is possible to be in the differend while in the midst of roiling thoughts focused on your survival. “I am here”. In this moment, I am and the next moment is not assured. For me the Sublime is liberating, emancipatory, enfranchising, and unfettering all at once: «Being announces itself in the imperative. Art is not a genre defined in terms of an end (the pleasure of the addressee) and still less is it a game whose rules have to be discovered; it accomplishes an ontological task    that is, a ‘chronological task.’ It must constantly begin to testify anew to the occurrence by letting the occurrence be» (Lyotard, 1988). If engaging with the Sublime is a technique by which, through which, I transform myself, what kind of work, then, does that self has the potential to create? How will that work differ from that produced by the un-demolished, un-obliterated self? As I continue to employ the Sublime to unmake and remake my notions of self, I hope to produce visual work that does not present its subjects in conceptually subjugated ways. My work is not meant to defy expectation, but simply disregard expectation altogether. There is no conflict here because there is no context. The work is not produced as a counter-narrative even though that is what it will ultimately become. I do not intend to counter. The “counter” for this work, to this work, does not exist in my maker’s mind. I wish to weave into existence the unforeseeable in an effort to make it foreseeable. I wish to speak of things which cannot be spoken about until they have been spoken about. That is the generative work of the differend. The goal is not to reproduce a sublime experience for the viewer, but instead to produce within them some feeling, uncontextualized and unsignified. A feeling they must fold into themselves and marvel at.

Ladan Osman, Screen Grab

There is love in this futurity. Love is the driving force behind my efforts at production because it was the driving force for those who came before me. It rings in my ears even now, «Love is in his music. Love is in the songs we play […]» (Zapp and Roger, 1981). Musical arrangements and visual juxtaposition function as a time capsule delivery system sent into the future to nourish and enrich a future black soul. I now understand the social artifact as much more than an object of the present or past. A movie, or a poem, or a photograph can carry future thought hurtling both backward and forward in time. This, for me, is the pathway toward black futures. My work seeks to be open space for black souls to stretch and «be ever wonderful» (Earth Wind and Fire, 1977). As artists our work can only be emancipatory for those who engage with it once our creative processes have been set free from structuring contexts and to that effort, I seek the Sublime.

References
Bourdieu, P., (1990). The logic of practice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, pp.52-58.
Burke, E., (1767). A philosophical enquiry into the origin of our ideas of the sublime and beautiful. The Harvard Classics, pp.1909-14
Foucault, M., Martin, L., Gutman, H. and Hutton, P., (1988). Technologies of the self. London: Tavistock.
Girten, K. M. S., (2016). ‘Sublime Luxuries’ of the Gothic Ediface: Immersive Aesthetics and Kantian Freedom in the novels of Ann Radcliffe. Eighteenth-Century Fiction 713-738.
Graeme H., Rayner J., editors. (2010). Cinema and Landscape: Film, Nation and Cultural Geography. Chicago: Intellect Press.
Huckvale, D., (2010). Touchstones of Gothic Horror: A geneology of Eleven Motifs and Images. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.
Johnson, G. A., (2008). The Beautiful and the Sublime in Merleau-Ponty and Lyotard. Chiasma International 10: 207-226.
Lyotard, J-F, Van Den Abbeele, G., (1989). Differend. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Lyotard, J-F., (1994). Lessons on the analytic of the Sublime. Stanford, CA: Standford University Press.
Trifonova, T., (2007). The Image in French Philosophy. New York: Rodopi B.V.
Twitchell, J. B., (1983). Romantic Horizons. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.
Whyte, I. B., (2011). Beyond the Finite: The Sublime in Art and Science. New York: Oxford University Press.
Wilton, A., (1980). Turner and the Sublime. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Camille DeBose is a lecturer and award winning filmmaker in the College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul. With a Masters degree in Sociology and an MFA in Cinema she takes an academic approach to the exploration of social forces through the analysis and production of film. Her first film, ‘Good Hair’ and other Dubious Distinctions sparked conversation on intra-cultural racism and the “othering” which occurs inside one’s own community. Her second film, On Fathers and Sons and Love explored the lives of four generations of men through the lens of the Harvard Grant Study, prompting conversations on the role love plays in the lives of men and their families. DePaul magazine noted: «The film turns a sharp eye on the ways masculinity is challenged and altered by the experience of fatherhood». Her films have been official selections at various film festivals including the Black Harvest Film Festival in Chicago, and the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival in Seattle. Her recent release: The Poetic and The Visual is the beginning of an exploratory conversation on the philosophical Sublime and the Black imagination.

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Afrofuturism

Afrofuturism: Liberation and inclusion beyond literature with N. K. Jemisin. by Clara Bigoni

afrofuturismo
Afrofuturism: Liberation and inclusion
beyond literature with N. K. Jemisin
by Clara Bigoni

For all those who have to fight
for the respect that everyone else is given without question
(Jemisin, 2015)

Afrofuturism is a complex and multifaceted cultural current that took its first steps when the seemingly undefeatable whiteness of science fiction stopped playing a universally accepted role and started being consistently and systematically challenged (Carrington, 2016). This cultural and philosophical movement has the potential to overcome the differences that are so often used as a catalyst for conflict; it has been employed to connect and unite people, through the recovery and reclamation of often forsaken and silenced pasts and histories. Afrofuturism uses African, African American and black diasporic perceptions of past and present as ways to reconnect people of all kinds; it does not only aim at the promotion of non-white, African and African American literary and artistic production, but it is also centered on the creation of a more inclusive, more universal paradigm that will hopefully address everybody’s dreams, desires, hopes and futures. Afrofuturism tries to fill the void left by white male dominance in the field of science fiction by blending different cultures and traditions into a less exclusive and exclusionary genre. Many authors and artists have actively contributed to this shift; their joined forces are currently helping influence society in a positive and critical way.

‘Octavia Butler’ picture by Nikolas Coukouma. African American author and spiritual mother of black women writers of science fiction signing one of her works.

Significant contributions in literature

I just knew
There were stories I wanted to tell
(Octavia Butler)

The fundamental ideals and progression of afrofuturism cannot be detached from some very resounding names. The very core of this cultural current is based on the desire to represent underrepresented subjects, give voice to silenced groups, and rewrite neglected histories that have been substituted by the dominant and singular European history. A famous African American author who paid special attention to these needs and was able to create critical and groundbreaking narratives was Octavia Butler. Afrofuturism would not have been the same movement without her contribution. Octavia Butler paved the way of science fiction literature for black women writers; she was able to free many authors and readers from the sedimented belief that marginalized categories are not allowed to have a future or to dream of a different reality (Hampton, Brooks, 2003). Butler explored many different themes that deal with the concept of otherness in an attempt at overcoming marginality and exclusion. In her works, she deals with otherness and transformation through the representation of altered bodies and non-standardized approaches to sexuality and gender roles. These themes are mixed with the rewriting and exploration of postcolonial histories and considerations about either a forgotten or deliberately silenced past. African American experience in the United States is therefore strictly intertwined with feminist claims and desire for justice in her works (Federici, 2016). This is why she is often considered as the mother of afrofuturism and the spiritual mother of many female authors to come. Novels such as Kindred (1979) and Parable of the Sower (1993) are examples of how speculative fiction can serve social and political purposes, and, most importantly, they are significant examples of how marginalized categories can overcome their subaltern state to become a role model for entire generations.
Of course, Octavia Butler is not the only relevant author who has contributed to the birth and growth of afrofuturism and it would be utterly simplistic to stop at her now famous name. Afrofuturism became the international movement it is today thanks to multiple and interdisciplinary contributions that enriched and diversified it. Nalo Hopkinson is another important figure on the black science fiction scene. Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian writer who combines science fiction tropes and themes with Caribbean culture, folklore and legend. (Watson-Aifah, 2003) In Brown Girl in the Ring (1998) and Midnight Robber (2000), she focuses on the themes of self-recognition and struggle to reconcile one’s different, sometimes contrasting identities and cultural traits. (Rutledge, Hopkinson, 1999) Such themes are typical of the African American experience in the United States and are deeply rooted in the concept of double-consciousness theorized by W. E. B. Du Bois in The Souls of Black Folk (1903) when exploring the challenges non-white people had to deal with when looking at themselves through the eyes of a racist society. Through afrofuturism, these issues are brought back to life with new consciousness; by using different means, these themes are explored from an alternative, more contemporary perspective.

Nnedi Okorafor also combines science fiction with her African origins. She was born in the United States by Nigerian parents and because she is not Nigerian born, in order to build her narratives, she had to rely on storytelling and oral accounts. In her work, she focuses on postcolonial narrative and harshly criticizes all kinds of colonization (cultural, economic, political). In works such as Who Fears Death (2010) and Lagoon (2014), Okorafor manages to reverse the depiction of conquest as a glorious and heroic endeavor and emphasizes the issues connected to it, such as postcolonialism and its true meaning in real-life Africa (Burnett, 2015). By using speculative fiction devices, she is able to analyze present-day problems that affect Africa and African people and to put forward different possible solutions.

‘Cyrus Kabiru’ picture by Fabian Alonso. Nigerian artist Cyrus Kabiru photographed near one of his C-Stunners posters.

Contemporary examples in visual arts

I feel like one of nature’s soldiers.
(Cyrus Kabiru)

Literature is not the only field where afrofuturism has spread; visual arts are also a very prolific environment for afrofuturists. A very interesting and promising artist is Cyrus Kabiru. He is an emerging Kenyan artist who blends his African origins and traditions with futuristic hints. More specifically, he builds sculptural eyeglasses that display both a resemblance with traditional African jewels and steampunk-like ornaments (Komisa, 2018). His sculptures are made of recycled materials assembled together as a mix of two very distant albeit interconnected fields: tradition and future. Kabiru proposes a rethinking of his African origins through a future-oriented perspective. He manages to successfully blend concepts of preserving and praising of one’s traditions without forgetting to keep an eye on the future. Through his art, Kabiru is telling stories; stories about his past, his African background, stories about present and future problems in the African continent. His work is deeply rooted in his environment and cannot be detached from Kenya or the streets of Nairobi, where his art is shaped and created. Exemplifying instances of his futuristic work have been exhibited all around Europe and in the United States in the past ten years; currently, his sculptures are included in the exhibition KUBATANA, in Scandinavia, and in Material Insanity at the MAACAL in Marrakech, Morocco.
Another promising Kenyan visual artist is photographer Osborne Macharia. He identifies as a proud afrofuturist who uses science fiction and fantasy imagery to convey traditional African aesthetics through alternative perspectives. He focuses on postcolonial narratives as a way to reclaim African history and traditions and uses the devices of afrofuturism because they allow him to reshape his past, present and future from his own, personal point of view, without external dominant impositions. In addition to the redefinition of African stereotypes, the most popular themes he explores are distorted perceptions about gender and age, marginalization, and social exclusion. Being convinced that storytelling can help change people’s perspectives, he is determined to use his art to make a positive contribution to society. His works are currently exhibited in Stuttgart, Germany as a part of the Fumes and Perfumes 6.0 exhibition.

‘N. K. Jemisin’ picture by Laura Hanifir. African American writer and record-breaking winner of three consecutive Hugo Awards, Nora K. Jemisin, author of the Broken Earth trilogy.

N. K. Jemisin

The world is broken and needs fixing—and that’s a good thing!
(N. K. Jemisin)

The authors and artists that have been cited are very heterogeneous examples of how pervasive and prolific afrofuturism has become in recent times. It has spread through all fields: literature, philosophy, photography, painting, cinema, and so on. It has been interpreted and reinterpreted in very different ways by artists coming from very diverse backgrounds; however, afrofuturists share common objectives and convey similar themes. Despite the difficulty of choosing one exemplifying model over others, in this case it can be useful to focus on a writer who has recently made history with her latest trilogy and who has given an example of hope and persistence to the speculative fiction scene. Nora K. Jemisin is an African American writer whose brilliant career has interested many readers and critics. She has won three Hugo Awards, one for each volume of her Broken Earth trilogy and despite harsh criticism against her unwanted presence from reactionary groups, she proved to be an unquestionably talented writer. Drawing inspiration from everyday racism and the necessity to understand and fight it, her contribution to afrofuturism has been strong and distinct. Jemisin’s participation in the movement is particularly interesting because of the social messages she conveys through her work. The dedication of her first volume perfectly explains what her aim is and how she fits in the current of afrofuturism as a politically and socially committed movement that is addressed primarily to those people whose absence in literature and art has always been considered right and natural: «For all those who have to fight for the respect that everyone else is given without question» (Jemisin, 2015). Her intention is to give voice to the voiceless through the critical rethinking of their past and present, in addition to an optimistic reconsideration of their dreams and hopes. Jemisin forms part of afrofuturism by tackling themes and issues such as racism, reconsideration of the past as means to understand the present, oppression, marginalization, and dehumanization, in an attempt to reach a universal and inclusive narration where everyone’s dreams matter. Through her Broken Earth trilogy, she manages to address all those people who are normally excluded from speculative fiction narration and to prove them that something good can emerge from sufferance and injustice, just «Don’t be patient. Don’t ever be. This is the way a new world begins» (Jemisin, 2017, p. 398).

Between fantasy and reality: making a change beyond literature
The Fifth Season (2015), The Obelisk Gate (2016), and The Stone Sky (2017) are the award-winning novels that best represent Jemisin’s desire to speak to the oppressed and marginalized. The Broken Earth trilogy is based on a double level of interpretation, a literal one, and an allegoric one, which makes reference to real-life and historic events. Jemisin’s protagonists are a group of oppressed and systematically exploited people who are kept separated from the rest of society due to physical characteristics. They are called ‘orogenes’ and have the ability to control the kinetic and seismic energy of the Earth; in other words, they can both cause and quell earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. This is a very useful skill in a land which is constantly hit by catastrophic cataclysms. However, despite their usefulness to society, they are deemed dangerous and uncontrollable, intrinsically different from other people, and therefore they are captured, imprisoned, and surveilled. Social exclusion is one of the most detailed themes in the trilogy. It disrupts cohesion among members of the same community and has the effect of separating and establishing impassable boundaries. It is reinforced by factors such as discrimination, deprivation and poverty and is based primarily on the concepts of power relations and inequality (Bossert, D’Ambrosio, Peragine, 2003). In the trilogy, there are groups of people—those in power—who are considered to be more important, even ‘more human’ than others; the former employ social exclusion to reestablish their assumed superiority and their value as rulers, while the latter are systematically weakened and discouraged. The concept of social exclusion is inextricably linked to that of dehumanization. Scholars have defined dehumanization as a psychological process often associated with racism that consists in demonizing the enemy to the extent that he/she loses the privilege to be considered human—that is, the dehumanized are not worthy of humane treatment (Brown, 2018; Smith, 2011). In Jemisin’s trilogy, those in power are allowed to subjugate and enslave orogenes because the latter are not deemed human and therefore they are not protected under common laws. Because orogenes are regarded as dangerous and evil, they have to be incarcerated, constantly controlled and threatened. This system works so well because dehumanization is a logical and psychological process that creates enemies and a justification for the violence that is perpetrated against them (Smith, 2011). One of the protagonists of the trilogy, Essun, wonders why orogenes must be subjugated and controlled. The answer she finds is simple yet painful: orogenes are not people in the eyes of society, they are monsters waiting to be polished into usefulness and eliminated if they try to rebel or if they do not comply with their obligations (Jemisin, 2015). In order to be able to consider certain groups less than human, a society has to engage in the process of ‘enmification’, or creation of an enemy. Enemy making serves the purpose of convincing the majority of society of the presence of an enemy that actively threatens them and therefore has to be eliminated or forcefully pushed away (Sion, 2018). Once the enemy is established, it is necessary to associate dehumanization to enmity, so that any action that is taken against the enemy is fair and justified. In Jemisin’s narration, society has turned orogenes into the enemy of the people and has convinced everybody to fear and hate them to the extent that when orogenes are captured and enslaved nobody feels the need to complain. The processes of enmification, dehumanization and social exclusion are all put into action and explored in the Broken Earth trilogy. What makes this trilogy so valuable is the fact that Jemisin does an exemplary job in making it clear that she is not merely telling a fictional story; in fact, nothing she describes and makes reference to is ever detached from reality. The narration presents continuous, clear but not foregone references to the reader’s society, and the processes of exclusion, dehumanization and enemy making in the trilogy are reflections of historic and real-life events. Orogenes are derogatorily called ‘roggas’, an offensive, almost taboo word that causes the recipients to experience feelings of confusion, self-hatred and uncontrollable anger. «It has never occurred to her that roggas—she stops herself. She. She is a rogga. All at once she does not like this word, which she has heard most of her life. It’s a bad word she’s not supposed to say, even though the grown-ups toss it around freely, and suddenly it seems uglier than it already did» (Jemisin, 2015, p. 89). In this passage, the protagonist realizes the actual meaning of the offensive word which is constantly referred to her and her companions. It is not something immediate or easily explicable; it is a feeling of being inadequate and unfit, forever unwanted and undesirable. What her society tells her constantly by labeling her as rogga is that she is not welcome among other people, normal, non-monstrous people. The derogatory term that is used throughout the trilogy bears a strong, non-casual resemblance to its real-life counterpart which is used to categorize, offend, and discriminate people of African descent primarily in the United States. By establishing this parallel, Jemisin is able to connect everything that orogenes have to endure and are forced to overcome in her trilogy to African American experience of slavery, oppression, marginalization, and violence in the United States.

Throughout the trilogy, orogenes and their lives are described more in detail; as the narration progresses, the analogy with historic examples of slavery and violence becomes more evident. For example, orogenes who do not abide by the rules, or are not skilled enough, try to rebel, or do anything that is not acceptable in the eyes of those who control them, are either eliminated or transformed into ‘node-maintainers’. Node-maintainers are orogenes who are put in a coma and whose bodies are kept alive by machines; their only purpose is to quell earthquakes in critical areas. When the protagonist finds out about this inhuman practice, she realizes that the people like her are «not people at all» (Jemisin, 2015, p.144). Orogenes who are turned into node-maintainers are most useful to society because they are «reliable, harmless, completely beneficial» (Jemisin, 2015, p. 142). This means that the only way orogenes can be accepted by their society is by submitting themselves to whatever law, rule, and treatment (no matter how violent, cruel, or unjust they may be) without question. Orogenes have been enslaved, made desperate, transformed into tools and weapons, controlled and often killed (or ‘lynched’; again, Jemisin’s use of vocabulary is but casual) for centuries (Jemisin, 2016). This is clear and accepted by everybody, even those who are subjected to such atrocities, because they cannot see any possible alternatives: «You hate the way we live. The way the world makes us live. Either the Fulcrum [1] owns us, or we have to hide and be hunted down like dogs if we’re discovered. There should be a better way. There isn’t» (Jemisin, 2015, p.123). And again, «If a whole society has dedicated itself to their subjugation, after all, then surely they deserve it?» (Jemisin, 2017, p. 312). Oppressive societies aim at instilling the belief that some people deserve a better treatment than others not only in those who are allowed to enjoy certain benefits but also in those who are barely considered to be human. Through her narration, Jemisin exposes the oppressive pattern that has been put into place many times during history, and, more specifically, that has been used against African American people. The story she tells is a story of sufferance, oppression, marginalization, violence, and desperation, but it is also a story of resilience, endurance, resistance, courage, and love. The Broken Earth trilogy ultimately sends a positive message of hope; it shows a future where despite injustice, people still believe in the necessity to do good, change, evolve, become one. Her message is addressed to the broadest readership possible; it aims at finding common ground where differences are a strength rather than a weakness. It shows the readers that it is possible to reach freedom—which shouldn’t be a conquest but a right—and that the key to justice is inclusiveness and respect. But in order to reach these objectives, first it is necessary to be aware of past unjust events and behaviors to subvert and improve the present and the future.

The recovery of memory through fictional narration has the potential to be incredibly successful because it gives the reader the possibility to explore such memory from a different point of view. The narration can still be enjoyable if the readers do not realize what they are being truly confronted with, but in this case, it loses its main purpose: to make a change. By connecting orogenes’ sufferance with African American exploitation, enslavement and oppression, the readers are given the proper tools to reconsider, restore and reclaim history. By blending and associating these experiences with her fictional (and yet so painfully realistic) characters, Jemisin manages to create an open and inclusive paradigm that allows the readers to think critically about a variety of issues, primarily racism, social exclusion, and marginalization, but also systematized use of violence, instillation of fear as means to terrorize and coerce people, and erasing of inconvenient past events. Her close focus on African slaves in the United States perfectly serves the purposes of afrofuturism: the call for a rethinking of the past in a critical way, promotion of inclusiveness and acceptation, critique of racism, rediscovery of origins and traditions that have been silenced and annihilated by dominant and violent impositions. By turning speculative fiction into a more critical genre, Jemisin and other afrofuturists are contributing to making a change beyond literature; they are managing to reach the excluded and marginalized through a narrative that finally aims at being truly inclusive.

“The dreams of the marginalized matter”
When N. K. Jemisin proved that a non-stereotypical science fiction work could win the Hugo Award in spite of reactionary protest, she also made clear that the representation and account of the dreams, hopes and imagination of marginalized people are important, too. For a genre such as science fiction, whose very nature is to present alternatives to the perceived reality, it is fundamental to include every possible imaginative option, not only the most popular ones. European mythology is not the only existing mythology, white characters are not the only strong, brave, and good characters, and women can be the hero, too. The Broken Earth trilogy was successful because Jemisin managed to fit together both universal themes than can be shared and understood by all readers as individuals belonging to humankind, and themes which are too often either silenced, taken for granted, or avoided. The strength of the trilogy lays in its coexisting universality and inclusiveness. The same thing goes for afrofuturism in its entirety: this cultural and philosophical movement ultimately aims at inclusivity and universality through the rediscovery of African, African American and black diasporic past, through the regaining of lost, forsaken, or silenced traditions, cultures and histories and though a critically more inclusive approach to science fiction and art. Thanks to contemporary contributions coming from authors, artists, photographers, directors, and philosophers whose traditions, histories, and social and economic backgrounds are often radically different albeit united by common traits and future aspirations, afrofuturism is currently evolving into an all-embracing, truly inclusive current.

Notes
[1] The Fulcrum is the place where orogenes are sent when they are separated from the rest of society. It is an institution where orogenes are trained to become servile and useful; if they fail, they are either eliminated or sent away where nobody can see them or know what has happened to them.

References
Bossert, W., D’Ambrosio, C., Peragine, V., (2007), Deprivation and Social Exclusion, Economica, vol. 74, no. 296, pp. 777-803.
Brown, B., (2018), Dehumanizing Always Starts with Language, Brené Brown, 17 May, viewed 22 July 2019,
Butler, O.E., (2000), Parable of the Sower, Grand Central Publishing, New York.
Butler, O.E., (2007), Kindred, Beacon Press, Boston.
Burnett, J.Y., (2015), The Great Change and the Great Book: Nnedi Okorafor’s Postcolonial, Post-Apocalyptic Africa and the Promise of Black Speculative Fiction, Research in African Literatures, vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 133-150.
Carrington, A.M., (2016), Speculative Blackness, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
Kabiru C., Artwork, (2019), viewed 22 July 2019.
Du Bois, W.E.B., (2016), The Souls of Black Folk, Routledge, London.
Federici, E., (2016), Quando la Fantascienza è Donna: dalle Utopie Femminili del Secolo XIX all’Età Contemporanea, Carocci, Roma.
Hampton, G.J., Brooks, W.M., (2003), Octavia Butler and Virginia Hamilton: Black Women Writers and Science Fiction, The English Journal, vol. 92, no. 6, pp. 70-74.
Hopkinson, N., (1998), Brown Girl in the Ring, Grand Central Publishing, New York.
Hopkinson, N., (2000), Midnight Robber, Grand Central Publishing, New York.
Jemisin, N.K., (2015), The Fifth Season, Orbit, London.
Jemisin, N.K., (2016), The Obelisk Gate, Orbit, London.
Jemisin, N.K., (2017), The Stone Sky, Orbit, London.
Komisa, Z., (2018), Afrofuturism through Sculptural Eyewear Objects by Cyrus Kabiru, Kayafm, 18 March, viewed 20 July 2019,
K63. Studio on Osborne Macharia, 2019, viewed 22 July 2019.
Okorafor, N., (2015), Lagoon, Saga Press, New York.
Okorafor, N., (2014), Who Fears Death, Daw Books, New York.
Rutledge, G.E., Hopkinson, N., (1999), Speaking in Tongues: An Interview with Science Fiction Writer Nalo Hopkinson, African American Review, vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 589-601.
Smith, D.L., (2011), Less than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others, St. Martin’s Press, New York.
Sion, L., (2018), Enemy Making, in Joseph, P (ed.), The SAGE Encyclopedia of War: Social Science Perspectives, SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks.
Watson-Aifah, J., Hopkinson, N., (2003), A Conversation with Nalo Hopkinson, Caloo, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 160-169.
Womack, Y., (2013), Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture, Chicago Review Press, Chicago.

Clara Bigoni è laureata presso l’Università degli Studi di Milano in Lingue e Culture per la Comunicazione e la Cooperazione Internazionale. La sua Tesi di Laurea esplora la trilogia Broken Earth di N. K. Jemisin focalizzandosi in particolare su oppressione e inclusività. Coltiva una forte passione per la letteratura contemporanea, la sociologia e la fantascienza come luogo di incontro dei suoi interessi personali e accademici. Oltre all’italiano, che è la sua madrelingua, parla fluentemente inglese e spagnolo.

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Afrofuturism

Ancient Future Yoga Self care as Liberation. by Frank Mitchell

afrofuturismo
Ancient Future Yoga
Self care as Liberation
by Frank Mitchell

Self care as Liberation
Can yoga and self care be practical tools for the liberation of a people? Is the concept of Black people doing yoga a radical idea? Is it revolutionary in any way?
Today there are many more spaces for people of color to practice self care and healing and more are beginning to see the benefits of developing a ritual of healing practice. However, are there practices that are geared towards this specific end? Are there practices that can fight through the years of generational stigmas that have paralyzed our progress and brought us to believe that healing practices like yoga are too white, too feminine, too black, or too mysterious?
For so long the African experience has been relegated to reactions to slavery and colonization, both of which have sought to strip the humanity from Black people across the world. The lenses of oppression held dually by Black and non-Black alike rarely suggests that an alternative way of living could exist for descendants of slavery, colonization, apartheid, and Jim Crow. Rarer still do the qualities of health, well-being, healing, and regeneration become attributed to these same descendants.
We ignore that these descendants are founders of kingdoms, creators of sciences and great systems of healing. This past is is rarely known other than to true scholars of the Black experience. The mere concept of Black self care has never been widely known or promoted though has always been practiced through residual generational inheritance. Wives’ tales, Grandmother’s remedies and intuitions that give guidance, Grandfather’s innate “know how”, all give witness to our ancestral wisdom. There are many who would say of Black self care, that it is the ultimate revolutionary tool of liberation.
During the mid-1970s in Chicago, yoga pioneers Master Instructor Yirser Ra Hotep and Dr. Ausar Hapi were doing research to rediscover and reconstitute healing practices they could use inside their communities. They saw yoga as a tool in the quest for liberation, a very useful tool for developing the mind and freeing the body from destructive generational habits. They also saw, however, a need to have a yoga philosophy, practice and meditation that was based upon African principles. «We saw the need for creating something that would serve those who did not have access to the mainstream forms that were becoming more commercialized and exclusive to those who are white and with money. We saw a need to fulfill the desire of those who sought an African based spirituality and connected with the spirits and concepts of divinity closely aligned with our immediate lineage. We had nothing against India or that spirituality that we recognized in its original form was of Black creation».
Yirser and Ausar studied the great yoga masters of the past, Iyengar among others, but also the great writers of Black liberation from Franz Fanon to Malcolm X and Guyanese writer Ivan Van Sertima, who wrote the seminal book They Came Before Columbus.
The ideology they developed can be described also in terms of what Brazilian author Paulo Freire, an educator and contemporary of Franz Fanon, regards as «The oppressed want at any cost to resemble the oppressors, [however] the oppressed must be their own example». Freire went further to argue that the oppressed also could change their own thinking: «those who authentically commit themselves to the people must re-examine themselves constantly» [Pedagogy of the Oppressed].
Fanon himself urged «Colonialism is not satisfied merely with holding a people in its grip and emptying the native’s brain of all form and content. By a kind of perverted logic, it turns to the past of the people, and distorts, disfigures and destroys it» [Facts of Blackness].
Yirser and Ausar realized that centuries before what has been imported and promoted as yoga, there had been systems of health and healing with roots in Africa. Kemetic yoga, as it has become known throughout the world, is such a system of healing based upon ancient research and depictions of restorative movements, philosophy, and Kemetic “laws” taken from writings, drawings, hieroglyphs, and scientific background.
Kemetic yoga is based upon the ancient principle of MAAT, which is used to describe a harmony with the universe, and the idea of a lifeforce or SHU which is primarily the internal breath and how it navigates the body. The movements take influence from the angular, geometric postures as seen on the walls of pyramids and temples. Poses are developed with a sense of slow movement and are sustained through ‘geometric progression’ often manifesting an ancient belief or sacred character of the pantheon of Kemetic literature. It is a practice that develops a “perpetual state of meditation” for the practitioner and uses the breath and the body to restore and rejuvenate the spirit.
Though it began slowly in close-knit corners of self care culture, over the past 50 years Master Instructor Yirser has transcended this ancient future system into what is now known as THE GLOBAL KEMETIC YOGA MOVEMENT which has spread nationally as well as internationally to Europe, West Africa, The Caribbean, and even as recently and far off as New Zealand, Australia, and Brazil, practiced by thousands of instructors and practitioners world-wide.

Franz Fanon, facts of blackness

My Journey
I discovered this ancient future practice of Kemetic yoga in very much in a 21st century way, through social media. Yoga for me had already become a tool of my own self liberation helping me gain a deeper sense of self, introspection and control while I was trying to free myself from decades of abuse from alcohol. It’s a common problem in many communities and a particularly disabling one for so many in my community, and though I was sober through a treatment program, I came to yoga separately and it became the most useful activity I could do for my sobriety.
I began with Bikram yoga. This is a series of 26 postures done in a heated environment which by the end produced an effect of relieving anxiety and focusing the mind. It is extremely challenging and effective. Yet I found it not to be so accessible for those that I, in turn, wanted to help. My original studio was an exception, yet many spaces for yoga were catered to mainstream white audiences and watered down with gym culture and frothy new age sensibility.
I turned to social media and became engaged regularly with yoga communities online and finding other yogis who looked like me (Black) and were on similar journeys of self discovery and care. It seemed we all silently heard the bells of liberation of yoga and had taken up arms on Instagram. Black Instagram yogis from all over the world had one hashtag in common, #kemeticyoga. I sought to find out more and soon discovered that Yirser was actually based right in my city of Chicago! What a sign! How could that be? I almost had no choice but to follow this destiny and meet this master of self care liberation.
Yirser and Ausar were also working in their communities to heal traumas and develop wellness programs. Yirser was actually a social worker involved in substance abuse programs and teaching yoga professionally and Dr. Ausar had begun to pursue professional bodywork method similar to chiropractic work. I found Yirser’s teacher training in a modest space on the southside and immersed myself in the practice.

Instagram explore tags #kemeticyoga

Lifeforce (SHU) and MAAT
My immersion seemed to recall much of what I learned in my Bikram classes about yoga and the connection of the breath. The 26 postures in a heated room makes a reliance upon the breath mandatory, though it is not always indicated in an instructive way how to move the body with the breath. Simple as it may seem, breath is our lifeforce though we barely notice its presence or activity; however, its absence would surely be noticeable. Our movements through Kemetic postures highlighted a reliance upon the principles of inhalation to cause the body to rise and an exhalation to allow the body to descend and move deeper into poses. There’s often a natural rhythm to this method. I also began to learn more about the harmony breathing can bring to unifying the internal elements that had always felt in conflict. Breath was actually unifying my body and beyond.
The ancient Kemetic word for breath is Shu and it is seen in many depictions as the goddess Ausar (Isis) giving an ankh to another subject through the mouth. As one of the tenets of Kemetic yoga, cultivation of the breath is central to calming the body, regulating the nervous system, and ultimately providing ascendancy and enlightenment.
The nervous system, which is central to our lifeforce, is actually a pair of polar opposite systems of the body, best described as the sympathetic and parasympathetic. We know of these systems because the sympathetic nervous system, which is the one meant to protect us, is known as our “fight or flight”. The opposing system, the parasympathetic, is the one we don’t often think about but usually brings us calm and regulates other systems, such as digestion and circulation. These can be seen in a familiar symbol known as the caduceus, also known to us as the modern symbol of medicine. This is an ancient Kemetic symbol and has its roots in ancient Africa as a dual symbol of the two complementary forces of the nervous system. In Africa, it depicts two serpents revolving around a staff, representing the ascendancy of our lifeforce energy along the spine. When these forces are aligned, a practitioner may experience an enlightened state of being known in the Indian tradition as Shushama, and in the Kemetic tradition as MAAT.
MAAT, however, has a more contextual meaning as an ancient Egyptian philosophical idea, sustaining that the underlying nature of the universe is predicated on a discernible order that each individual person is obligated to strive for. According to MAAT, the true nature of everything is order, balance, harmony, justice, and reciprocity. This is also the basis for Kemetic yoga.

Ankh isis nefertari
Ankh isis nefertari

Ancestor Wisdom & Connection
After my training, I imagined what these principles I had learned could do for my communities. I see so many neighborhoods blighted with vacant buildings, riddled with “food marts” yet also many communities that are transforming in ways that are good and bad. Cultural institutions that are giving way to Uber stores and new generations growing up immersed in a virtual electronic world and an increasingly violent real one.
I wondered what connection our Grandmother’s remedies and intuitions and Grandfather’s innate “know how” have to these ancient principles that are re-emerging as ancient future practices. What lessons could our communities reclaim by remembering our ancestral wisdom in this new and changing century, and in the future? In this sense, Kemetic yoga is afrofuturistic, meaning that, as a method of healing, it opens the possibility of harkening back to the African past in order to imagine a better future.
When I practice and teach this ancient method, I see such regality in my students and myself. The wisdom of the postures automatically transforms the beginner and veteran yogi alike into a modern reincarnation of an ancient, royal, spiritual being.
The fundamental aspect that distinguishes Kemetic yoga from other forms is a connection to ancestry. It is a uniquely African trait across the continent and of ancient Egyptian spiritual science. “In ancient Egypt,” says Master Instructor Yirser, “which is properly called Kemet (Egypt is the Greek version of the word), connecting with the spirits of the ancestors through meditation, prayer and ritual is a pillar of Kemetic Yoga practice. The purpose of meditation is not only to transcend the boundaries of the material world but also to connect and communicate with the living spirits of those who have gone before us.”
Kemetic poses have names that recall the ancestors, “pose of Ausar”, “pose of Anpu”, Goddess pose, “Heru Em Akhet”, that seem to embody the power of that deity yet also combine a physical benefit to the alignment and circulatory system.
There is practical knowledge here both for the body and the mind allowing students to connect with the practice both for healing and also for history.

Poses
Pose of immortality
Revelations From King Tut’s Tomb
When the King Tut exhibit came to Chicago in the mid-1970s, one of the artifacts Master Instructor Yirser and Dr Hapi found in the tomb of King Tut was a chair that contained a uniquely ancient Egyptian Yoga posture and various hieroglyphic inscriptions.
They were inspired to figure out how to perform this posture, translate the hieroglyphic writing and interpret the symbols. Their investigation of the artifact revealed the following:
The Sun Disk at the top of the head represents the crown chakra. The two serpents on each side of the sun disk represents the two primary energy channels (Ida and Pingala) represented by the caduceus.
The hieroglyphic inscriptions make reference to eternity and the achievement of immortality (ascendancy).
The “person” or deity pictured in posture is called Heh or Shu and is associated with life energy, the breath and the life force found in the air (prana).
He is seated on a platform that means “Nub” the ancient Egyptian word for gold. Gold is a metaphor for the highest level of consciousness that a person can reach, that is, the ultimate purpose of the practice of yoga.
They called his posture “Pose of Immortality” and it became the starting point for the other postures.

Pose of immortality
Tutankhamun Chair

Goddess Pose
The Goddess is MAAT, which is both the principle and the deity who personifies the concepts of order, balance, harmony, justice and reciprocity, the goddess also regulates the stars, seasons, and the actions of mortals and the deities who brought order from chaos at the moment of creation. She is represented by the outstretched arms that drape feather (feathers represent truth and ascendancy) as wings from either arm.

Auset MAAT goddess
Night view of the Great Sphinx of Giza

Heru em Akhet
The Sphinx pose is also well known in hatha yoga as a restorative asana.
The name roughly translates to “Heru in the Horizon,” Heru being the warrior god and son of Auset and Ausar (Isis and Osiris).
It is a monolithic monument more popularly known today as the Great Sphinx of Giza, it is the head of a Pharaoh and the body of a lion seated and gazing towards the horizon.
The posture promotes active breath and contemplation while aligning the spine in a restorative manner.

pose of immortality
pose of anpu
goddess pose

Yoga as liberation
«Today Kemetic Yoga is emerging out of its infancy». Yirser claims. «It has reached a tipping point along with African consciousness in general where it will continue to grow and spread due to the hunger of individuals and groups seeking truth across the globe».
I’ve personally seen an eagerness and welcoming of this practice as I teach around the city of Chicago. At a recent workshop at the University of Chicago, an older woman of Indian descent was in my class. She approached me afterwards to tell me she felt a real sincerity with the postures and she wanted to know more about the roots that extended beyond postures and the common belief that yoga only originated in India.
Another gentleman told me it felt so comfortable to him, “like home”, as he described it. He really felt the “ancient power” and the effect of breathing consciously.
This is a practical knowledge here, felt and gained both by the body and the mind allowing these students to connect with the past and use this ancient wisdom as a tool of modern health and healing.
Yoga in all forms serves as an entry into the quest for liberation. A liberation of the mind and also, a very useful tool for developing and freeing the body from destructive generational habits and instilling self love, awareness, and self confidence.
Kemetic yoga, however, also embraces the need for a present and future generations to embrace a yoga philosophy, a practice, and a meditation that is rooted in African principles.
The past is becoming the ancient future.

Yirser in Kemet
Ancient-Future Yoga
Ancient-Future Yoga

Links
Kemetic Yoga
Kemetic Yoga: Resurrection Of An African Legacy
Birth of a Nation

Frank Mitchell is an art director, multi-disciplinary artist and dedicated yogi and teacher. He holds a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts) BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a certification with Yoga Alliance (200RYT). He has studied Bikram, Ashtanga, and Kemetic yoga.  Based in Chicago, he regularly holds classes and workshops with The  University of Chicago, Chicago Park District, Kusanya Cafe, and Haji Healing Salon. Of Kemetic yoga he says, “For me there is a subtlety and regalness to this practice of yoga concentrated on the breath and developing and channeling the internal energy that has roots in all African systems of healing”
www.frankvincentmitchell.com

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