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.
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.)
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.”
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.