Afrofuturism & Slavery

Afrofuturism & Slavery

In 1908, WEB Du Bois wrote Princess Steel, a short story in which an African-American Sociologist creates a device enabling him to transcend time and space. He finds a kidnapped African Princess made from steel separated from her mother.

This short story can be interpreted  as a metaphor for the sense of Cultural alienation and dislocation caused by Slavery which is reflected in Afrofuturism

It seems inescapable that the origins of Afrofuturism lie in the sense of Cultural dislocation caused by Slavery when it created an African diaspora.

From this perspective, Afrofuturism may be defined as an effort to reconstruct a new Black identity within the inescapable framework of a fundamentally Post-Slavery Western Cultural paradigm.

Afrofuturism is therefore not the product of direct African Cultural experience, but can be understood as an effort to reclaim the self-esteem that would have been ingrained by possessing an imagined African identity that could have potentially emerged from an African Cultural experience uninterrupted by Slavery.

The negative effect of Slavery on Black Self-esteem has been explored extensively in Afrocentric Scholarship.

If the purpose of Afrofuturism is understood as an exercise in reclaiming lost identity and self-esteem within the context of the Cultural dislocation caused by Slavery, its no suprise that at the outset, Afrofuturism’s outlook and motifs naturally and invariably emerged out of the actual Cultural experience of its alienated Creators i.e. African-Americans experiencing Western Culture by virtue of the inescapable inertia of the Historical events engendered by Slavery.

A manifestation of this phenomenon or Problem in Afrofuturism is perhaps the use of Western Industrial technological Motifs in combination with African aesthetics in the conception and creation of Afrofuturist expression.

This is natural and hardly surprising.

In my view, the overall intent of Afrofuturism is to address the interruption in the process of Black identity formation resulting from the violent Cultural dislocation caused by Slavery.

For this reason, an integration of Afrofuturism rooted in the diasporan Cultural experience caused by Slavery with an Afrofuturist outlook based primarily on the direct African experience may result in Afrofuturist expression that encompasses the entire Universe of the contemporary Black experience Post-Slavery.

Afrofuturism versus Afrifuturism?

Ultimately whether such a strict distinction actually exists between ‘Diaspora’ and ‘African’ Afuturism is a matter of interpretation.

Nevertheless, if Afrofuturism is an Afrocentric Cultural mechanism for reclaiming Black Self esteem, then it may be helpful for Afrofuturism to transcend its origins in the Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome in order that it may base its claims to contemporary Black self-esteem and identity from both the reservoirs of the diasporan Post-Slavery experience and direct African Cultural experience.

Before being uprooted by Slavery and experiencing its negative Psychological effects, Slaves belonged to some of the most glorious Pre-Colonial African Empires starting with the Nile Valley Kemeitc Civilization that were eventually destroyed by Colonialism and Slavery and this aspect of Black Diaspora identity still remains to be represented in Afrofuturism whic largely still aims to intergrate Black people in the diaspora into Western Science Fiction rather than create new genres based on alternative African identities and experiences outside the Black Diaspora.


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