Afrofashion/futures twists

The cast of the Marvel Universe’s latest film, Black Panther

This post is going to be more reading list than writing. Mostly I just wanted to tie together some nerdy themes (I’m a librarian, after all) into the hype for the new Black Panther movie, and get you into some history of pop-culture that overlaps with fashion, which is one of the things FIT is all about.

Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura was an early mainstream symbol of black inclusion in white pop culture.


Afrofuturism, a term coined by Mark Dery in 1993, refers to speculative fiction (and its surrounding and expanding pop-culture these days) which puts the African American experience front and center and imagines technology used in its service. More or less, but really more.





As Lanre Bakare described in a 2014 article for The Guardian:

“Afrofuturism’s reach is vast. It encompasses the literature of writers such as Octavia E Butler and Ishmael Reed, films such as John Sayle’s The Brother From Another Planet, and the visual art of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Ellen Gallagher. It has been retrospectively applied to the work of musicians ranging from Jimi Hendrix and Sun Ra to Public Enemy and Lee “Scratch” Perry. It has an expansive and pliant musical heritage, which film-maker and Afrofuturist author Ytasha Womack argues stretches all the way back to ancient African griot traditions; she also notes the frequent references to Egyptian astronomy and the pyramids.” (Follow the link below for links to details on all the folks mentioned.)


Sun Ra and his Arkestra at a concert in the UK in 2015


Another “cultural provocateur” who has written about this concept is Greg Tate, who is a writer, artist and musician from Harlem. His writing on the subject found its voice while he was a staff writer for the Village Voice from 1987-2003. He and his Arkestra will be performing at the Brooklyn Museum on March 29, 2018.

Vice magazine defined Afrofuturism as a “space-obsessed African-American musical genre that was most prominent in the 70s and 80s.”


Monae’s 2013 album cover references the 1927 film Metropolis, one of the first science fiction films ever made.


What’s exciting is that this trend *isn’t* over. The wave of new female artists (musical in this case) have embraced this framework and expressed it visually through album art (remember that genre?), stage costume, and magazine photography.




The best visual examples, outside of the Marvel Universe’s new film, Black Panther, are performances by Solange Knowles, Janelle Monae, and Rihanna.

Solange on Saturday Night Live, November 2017. Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC via Getty images

And, to bring it back to this week’s MoW, here’s Rihanna, in a fashion shoot for W Magazine:

Rihanna in September 2017 W Magazine. Photo by Steven Klein, styled by Edward Enninful


Some reading:













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