Capturing the Future Back in Africa

Afrofuturist Media Ephemera

Extrapolation (2020), 61, (1-2), 53–68.


Over the last few decades, Afrofuturism has firmly established itself as one of the most recognizable sf aesthetics. Identified predominantly with literature (Butler, Delany, Hopkinson), comics (Misty Knight, Moon Girl, Black Panther), music (Sun Ra, Drexciya, Shabazz Palaces), and, to some extent, music videos (Janelle Monáe, Dawn Richards, Flying Lotus), the moniker has been commonly associated with African American artists. These are not, however, the only cultural forms of Afrofuturism, whose aesthetic has manifested itself in a range of digital media internationally: digital graphics and photography, installations, and cybertexts. Such ephemeral texts seem to be ubiquitous, yet they continue to suffer from critical neglect. I investigate the ways in which Fabrice Monteiro’s photograph series The Prophecy (2015), Olalekan Jeyifous’s collection of 3D visuals Lagos 2050: Shanty Megastructures (2016), and Jacque Njeri’s digital collages #MaaSci (2017) contribute not only to the literary traditions of American Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism, but also how they illuminate the peculiar nature of Afrofuturist digital art as contrasted with Afrofuturist film or gallery-based art.

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Works Cited

Al Jazeera. “The Stream—The Rise of Dystopian Art.” YouTube, 15 Feb. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1437&v=JQpdYT3jByM. Accessed 21 Nov. 2019. Google Scholar

Arigbabu, Ayodele. Lagos_2060. Design And Dream Arts Enterprises, 2013. Google Scholar

Azzarellor, Nina. “Fabrice Monteiro Shows Senegal’s Pollution with Garbage Garments.” Designboom: Architechture & Design Magazine, 21 Sept. 2015, http://www.designboom.com/art/fabrice-monteiro-prophecy-senegal-pollution-photography-09-21-2015/. Accessed 21 Nov. 2019. Google Scholar

Bould, Mark. “If Colonialism Was The Apocalypse, What Comes Next?” Los Angeles Review of Books, 5 Aug. 2015, https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/if-colonialism-was-the-apocalypse-what-comes-next-dilman-dila. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017. Google Scholar

Bould, Mark, and Sherryl Vint. “There Is No Such Thing as Science Fiction.” Reading Science Fiction, edited by James Gunn, Marleen S. Barr, and Matthew Candelaria, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, pp. 43–51. Google Scholar

Cameron, Kenneth. Africa on Film: Beyond Black and White. Continuum, 1994. Google Scholar

Dorman, Nerine. Terra Incognita: New Short Speculative Stories from Africa. Short Story Day Africa, 2015. Google Scholar

Eshun, Kodwo. “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism.” CR: The New Centennial Review, vol. 3, no. 2, 2003, pp. 287–302. Google Scholar

Gbadamosi, Nosmot. “Lagos 2050: Shanty Megastructures?” CNN, 19 July 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/14/style/lagos-shanty-megastructures/index.html. Accessed 18 Sept. 2016. Google Scholar

Grainge, Paul. Ephemeral Media: Transitory Screen Culture from Television to YouTube. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Google Scholar

Hartmann, Ivor W., editor. AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers. StoryTime, 2012. Google Scholar

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. Introduction to the Philosophy of History: With Selections from The Philosophy of Right. Translated by Leo Rauch, Hackett Publishing, 1988. Google Scholar

“In Lagos, Gentrification Can Mean Midnight Demolition.” Oyibos Online, 29 Mar. 2017, http://www.oyibosonline.com/in-lagos-gentrification-can-mean-midnight-demolition/. Accessed 12 Nov. 2019. Google Scholar

Jameson, Fredric. Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. Verso, 2005. Google Scholar

Jeyifous, Olalekan. “Art and Architecture that Disrupts Urban Spaces.” TEDNYC Idea Search 2017, 5 June 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TO3p6xV0laY. Accessed 12 Nov. 2019. Google Scholar

LaFleur, Ingrid. “Visual Aesthetics of Afrofuturism.” TEDx Fort Greene Salon, 25 Sept. 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7bCaSzk9Zc. Accessed 6 Apr. 2020. Google Scholar

Maclean, Ruth. “Life in Lagos Imitates Art as Squatters Evicted for Biennial Exhibition.” The Guardian, 26 Oct. 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/oct/26/lagos-biennial-holds-mirror-to-gentrification-as-squatters-evicted. Accessed 12 Nov. 2019. Google Scholar

Niedan, Christian. The Photographic Confrontations of Fabrice Monteiro: An Interview. 24 June 2015, http://www.mantlethought.org/arts-and-culture/photographic-confrontations-fabrice-monteiro-interview. Accessed 12 Nov. 2019. Google Scholar

@Nnedi (Nnedi Okorafor). “Again, let me *stress* that I am AFRICANFUTURIST, *not* an Afrofuturist. I’ll keep saying this until it sticks. I wasn’t allowed to evolve the definition of Afrofuturism to rightfully include what I do, so I’m divorcing it. #Africanfuturism.” 4 Dec. 2018, 4:28 p.m. https://twitter.com/Nnedi/status/1069976639235375104. Accessed 12 Mar. 2020. Google Scholar

@Nnedi (Nnedi Okorafor). “I am an Africanfuturist. BEFORE you start asking for or debating it’s meaning, please call me the name first.” 4 Nov. 2018, 6:10 p.m. https://twitter.com/nnedi/status/1059130871360368640n. Accessed 12 Mar. 2020. Google Scholar

@Nnedi (Nnedi Okorafor). “You’re Not Going to Find It by Google Because I Defined It. It’s up to Me to Answer or Not. And Yeah, I Have a Written Definitions. The Only Person Who’s Seen That in Full Is @JIJennings. So Basically It Becomes a Matter of You Refusing to Call Me What I Say I Am or Not.” 4 Nov. 2018, 6:35 p.m. https://twitter.com/Nnedi/status/1059137157476966400. Google Scholar

Orubo, Daniel. “‘MaaSci’: This Vibrant Series Imagines The Maasai People In Space.” Konbini Nigeria, 26 July 2017, http://www.konbini.com/ng/inspiration/maasci-this-vibrant-series-imagines-the-maasai-people-in-space/. Accessed 12 Nov. 2019. Google Scholar

Rieder, John. Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction. Wesleyan UP, 2008. Google Scholar

Sartre, Jean-Paul. Colonialism and Neocolonialism. Routledge, 1964. Google Scholar

Stoddard, Jill. “From Environmental Degradation Comes Art: Q&A with Fabrice Monteiro.” IPI Global Observatory, 28 Oct. 2015, https://theglobalobservatory.org/2015/10/environmental-problems-africa-fabrice-monteiro/. Accessed 15 Jan. 2017. Google Scholar

Thackway, Melissa. Africa Shoots Back: Alternative Perspectives in Sub-Saharan Francophone African Film. Indiana UP, 2004. Google Scholar

“What Would the Maasai Look like in Space?” BBC News, 20 July 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-africa-40667509/a-kenyan-artist-imagines-what-the-maasai-people-would-look-like-in-space. Accessed 31 Jan. 2018. Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here


Author details

Kniaź, Lidia