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Afro-futurism- A festival for the struggle for expression

by Kelvin Chiringa

A festival of the struggle for expression, is the first impression that comes out of Masiyaleti Mbewe’s exhibition, The Afrofuturistic Village, at the Goeth-Institut.

The exhibition itself is a collection of professionally done photography, each depicting the imagery of thoughts on what Afro-futurism implies from the springboard of today’s stereotypes and cultural excesses.

Each image glows with the light of hope for a tomorrow that is all-encompassing, tolerant and progressive to welcome the roles of emergent cultural identities fast protruding into the mainstream.

The art-work bashes the barricades of cultural limitations and redefine norms, what should be acceptable and what shouldn’t.

 Critics defines Afrofuturism as a cultural aesthetic and or philosophy of science, and philosophy of history that explores the developing intersection of African/African-American culture with technology.

It is rooted from within the maxim of black-consciousness and looks at life in an experimental manner by challenging perceptions, values and norms.

It embraces the queer as part of human identity and envisions a society that is based on values that looks at humanity as an indivisible whole irrespective of sexual identity.

The cultural aesthetic has its roots in African-American art and music, but is experiencing a renaissance.

The exhibition rightly depicts Afro-futurism as more than an aesthetic and way of thinking, but an organic movement that strives to disrupt and build anew.

The term Afrofuturism was first coined by author Mark Dery in a 1993 essay "Black to the Future."


The exhibition comes at the right time, when the world is making its enthralling inter-face with Hollywood’s latest movie, Black-Panther, whose setting is a near-futuristic fictional African nation called Wakanda.

Mbewe’s works re-invent the past and depict how fashion trends may never be the same again, recreated by the force of technology and creativity that borders on innovation.

There lies in each image an inner build-up of emotions that yearn to arrive at a point of shouting for attention to a conventional world.

That struggle for expression and attention brings to the fore the reality of a revolution that makes use of expressions to shoot down at the establishment and its realities.

Yet the artist envisions a future of mental stability where, “Womxn, men, non-binary individuals and people of all sexualities are not tormented by mental illness.”

She sees neo-technologies as having served a functional purpose to “have allowed healing through the re-introduction of traditional healing and self-examination.”

The over-emphasis on black clearly puts across the idea of a race forever walking the pilgrimage to find the self from a history of bastadisation, cultural-rape and plunder.

The exhibition thus ignites confidence in a race whose color has long been a subject of damnation, sustainably condescended and brutalized.

The brutalization process scattered all confidence in the self, on the part of the emasculated individual black, with his/her charms reduced to agents of evil and culture labelled an aberration.

Mbewe demystifies that past by pinpointing on the political maxim that begins and ends with the bold notion that “Black is beautiful” and intensifies her concentration on BLACK.

Afro-futurism is the dream of the heroes of the past, that finds relevance in a world where black is still a victim of oppression, and through art the struggle is reignited to realise those dreams.