Following the recent success of the Black Panther Movie, Afrofuturism has gained a much needed boost and momentum within Popular Culture. Whilst this attention (which is treated as positive) is welcome, it seems that possibly, the problem with Afrofuturism may be overlooked.

the problem with afrofuturism

What Is The Problem With Afrofuturism?

The definition

The problem with Afrofuturism can be found in its definition as ‘a philosophy of science, aesthetic and history that explores the developing intersection of African culture with technology.

Afrofuturism Culture combines elements of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, Afrocentrism and magic realism with non-Western cosmologies in order to critique the present-day dilemmas of black people and to interrogate and re-examine historical events.’

The term Black To The Future to describe Afrofuturism Culture was coined by early Technoculture Writer Mark Dery in his 1993 essay “Black to the Future”.

The Problem

From the outset its clear that the term Afrofuturism is composed of two elements, Africanism and Futurism, with the Futurism aspect understood primarily in technological and thus industrial terms.

Technological and Industrial Societies are a natural by-product of the evolution of Western Capitalism…Therefore an industrial technological future is fundamentally Western in Character, but it is not inevitable.

Since an Industrial technological future is not the only future possible, if Afrofuturism continues to cast an image of a Black future in the Western Industrial mould, it is in essence reflecting its failure to imagine a non-Industrial Western future for Africa.

In other words, Afrofuturism needs to go beyond the Motifs of Western Technology combined with an African aesthetic.

Failing to do so essentially means that whilst Afrofuturism claims to be an expression of liberated ‘Africanness’ or ‘Blackness’, its reliance on Western Industrial Motifs and inability to transcend them means it still reflects a Colonised mind-state in a sense.

Conclusion: The Future Of Afrofuturism

The challenge for Afrofuturism is to imagine an African future beyond the Motifs of Western Industrial Technology…In short, to imagine a non-Industrial future for Africa. Such Motifs can be based on African Cosmology or History for example which is already happening especially in Afrofuturist literature.

the problem with afrofuturism

In the final analysis, the problem with Afrofuturism arises out of Africa’s arrested development…Colonialism bound our future so close to that of the West, its difficult to imagine a future other than the Industrial future the West experienced…We need to dig deeper as the movement evolves.

The Rise of Astro-Blackness and The World Of Black Sci-Fi provide great insight into the origins and future trajectory of Afrofuturism which makes me both optimistic and excited.