Art & Music Histories Colloquium Series: “Roar Like a Lioness, Punch Like a Cyborg:” Imagining an African (Afro) Futurism
March 25, 2022 at 12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
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Warrick Moses, Assistant Professor of Music History and Cultures, Syracuse University
Since its formal naming as a theoretical framework in 1993, “Afrofuturism” today encapsulates an array of cultural, philosophical, and aesthetic modes within the fields of speculative literary fiction, visual, and musical arts. Despite the subsequent revisions and overuses of the term, Dery’s initial description – “African American signification that appropriates images of technology and a prosthetically enhanced future” – remains a useful barometer against which to gauge inter-relations of race, technology, and temporality. In this context Afrofuturism writ large allows for the evocation of counter-memories (Eshun, 2003): ways of enacting psychic redress for contemporaneous black engagements with displacement and disorientation created by the Middle Passage, and chattel slavery.
But what of speculative futures arising from the African Continent; narratives buffeted by very different concerns than the Diasporic experience? This presentation explores what might properly be characterized as “gestures toward African futurism” in the music of South African hiphop MC, Yugen Blakrok, who recently caught the attention of international audiences with her guest verse on the Black Panther (2018) soundtrack (quoted in my title). I argue that Blakrok employs a distinctly Afro-mythic mode of storytelling, combining tropes of speculative fiction to simultaneously imagine alternate pasts and not-yet-formed futures (Sunstrum, 2013). Imagination itself being a radical act, she conceives of an Africa “after catastrophic disaster” (Singer, 1992). Neither resigned, nor hopeful, Blakrok fully inhabits the world of her own conjuring, asserting both agency within and ownership of that conjuring.
Image: “Longing for the Unknown #3” by Faneul Leul
This event was published on March 8, 2022.
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