Black radical theory explores systems of oppression and how we may dismantle them. However, it has its limitations. It’s not an easy space from which to explore broader gender, sexuality and class issues. Although the focus is on exclusion and inequality it doesn’t always allow for the inclusion of multiple sites of oppression (intersectionality), occurring in complex and often contradictory ways.
Afrofuturism challenges what we’ve been told about adhering to divisions that don’t exist. It encourages self-exploration, individuality and to see our lives more fully than the present allows – politically, socially, economically, technologically and artistically.
The representation and treatment of black female bodies is deconstructed by Afrofuturist contemporary artists such as Wangechi Mutu, Ellen Gallagher and many others. An inclusive space for an eclectic array of cultural forms and expression (See: Octavia Butler, Basquiat, Sun Ra, Janelle Monae, Flying Lotus, Sons of Kemet and Lady Vendredi), Afrofuturism navigates an Afrodiasporic cultural aesthetic that draws together literature, jazz, funk, progressive hip-hop, sci-fi, techno-culture, art, film and fantasy into an all-encompassing philosophy. Always evolving, never stuck in one place or time and with a central focus on the cross-fertilisation of ideas.
Underpinning musical, literature and art explorations, incredible costumes and academic recognition, Afrofuturistic ideas and philosophies are focussed on improving the lives of black people. Marcus Garvey proposed a ‘Back-To-Africa’ movement for descendants of slavery, but Afrofuturists felt the future for black people could be imagined in new ways. With even the most outlandish intergalactic visions being rooted in real, everyday struggle.
Many of us are children of imperialism and colonialism and we do not have the luxury of vast archives and documentation about our ancestors. Reclaiming the colonial past is a radical act - in order to transform the present and future. Our work will ultimately place the black body as a site of both reparation (for social injustice) and liberation through the imagination. Rather than disavow the importance of race in identity formation, we aim to reformulate it in new frameworks that exist at the juncture between alternative and activist, producing new spaces for creative ideas to flourish.
nitroBEAT Pit Party – An Afrofuturistic Trip, is commissioned by the Barbican and taking place on Friday 22 July 2016.