A Critique of Afrofuturism…and more

A critical response to Afrofuturism…

A good friend left the following response on my Facebook page where I had posted a link to my previous post on Afrofuturism, the Studio Museum etc. As I didn’t explicitly get his permission to repost his comment here I won’t name him but he raises some compelling points. While I might agree with some of them I think the main thing is that Afrofuturism is about fantasy, a fantasy of shedding a troublesome past as the two tweets by @StormSaulter indicate. By no means is it a substitute for investment in scientific research or a so-called scientific outlook. So I don’t think the existence of what we call Afrofuturism is at the expense of scientific inquiry or even a placeholder for it. In fact it’s the opposite, an artistic impulse that is futuristic in orientation. Anyway…what do YOU think? Is it a ‘timewank’ to borrow a phrase from Irvine Welsh or is there more to it?

Thanks for heads up on the show. It would be interesting to read whatever texts accompany it to see if at last anyone has finally put forward an articulate, intelligent thesis of what exactly they mean by Afrofuturism beyond inchoate mentions of computers, Octavia Butler, and Africa.
Of the tweet excerpts that you reproduced in the blog there’s only one seriously intelligent line, and it isn’t from the Afrofuturists. It is from Greg Tate where he asks: Well, what isn’t futurist about being Black in America? That’s the first brick of theory at long last, the first spark of serious philosophical thought. The rest is humdrum rehashes of anecdotes and George Clinton.
The fact is that futurism (as most Afrofuturists appear to still understand it) without a serious culture of scientific adventurism is like the proverbial faith without work: it’s meaningless and dead. And, the other fact is that African cultures, no matter where they are, have yet to embrace scientific inquiry let alone adventurism. So, the science fiction remains fiction without a chance of transforming into fact the way Western science fiction consistently transforms into fact, and the utopia is nothing but dystopia.
In my thinking only Tate’s twist in the tale promises to open up a meaningful philosophical platform for defining and understanding the idea of an Afro futurism: one that isn’t about “I’m interested in using gadgets and looking weird, so, I’m an Afrofuturist”, but broaches the comprehensive philosphere of a culture that survives on dreams.
It’s interesting to wear Fula robes and kaftans (not even Dogon) and plastic sunglasses and perform alien descendants of Dogon astronomers visiting Earth. It would be even more interesting for people to emerge from within the culture(s), that is, African cultures be it in the West or on the continent, who have the mindset to invent Google Glass. If you see what I mean. Otherwise, to me the futurism stuff remains mostly a pitiful, mannerist “our ancestors built the pyramids” give me a break, quite frankly.
(PS. Notice the peculiar dissonance between European Futurism–Russian, Italian–which was about dynamism, speed, ascension, the future, and streams of Afrofuturism that seem to be about the past, the Dogon, alienation, hurt memory, or at best, mere consumerism, and hardly about ascent or the future!)

Well, as I said, some cogently argued points there although the rage is perhaps misplaced. The following tweets  articulate some of the reasons for the fascination with Afrofuturism:

Storm Saulter @StormSaulter
–nowadays deep seated issues of race, class, slavery etc. are mashing up with modern life and expectations of what life should be

–it’s refreshing 2 imagine a future where Afro culture/style exists in highest beauty w out always connecting it to a painful past

Ytasha Womack @ytashawomack
–The imagination spurs creativity and  scientific inquiry alike #afrofuturism

–triggers the imagination & helps many see beyond convention.