The Future of Afrofuturism in Nairobi

What does Afrofuturism mean and how is it taking root in Nairobi?



Imagine the future. Resolving a host of concerns and gaps in existence (through a lack of written tradition) that Africans and the African diaspora have faced through time. That’s right, take out your Tide-to-go (your instant stain remover), and just blot out all the old ink and soup and everything else that’s stained your kente garment over the past 700 hundred years. Afrofuturism is a way for us to imagine a future where we are able to critique not only the present-day dilemmas of people of colour, but revise, interrogate, and re-examine the past.

It is done through science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, Afrocentricity, music, art and magical realism together with mostly non-western cosmologies in order to create the right aesthetic. To tell stories we want to be heard.

Ytasha Womack describes it as thus, ”Non-linear, fluid and feminist; using the black imagination to consider mysticism, metaphysics, identity and liberation; and offering black folks a way to see ourselves in a better future. Afrofuturism blends the future, the past and the present.”

Although this concept is still pretty vague in Western communities (if you’re not looking you’ll probably never come across it), we can observe it slowly taking root in Kenya’s capital.

UP Nairobi partnered with Lesleigh Inc in 2012 to publish submissions for works of fiction that tackled this topic. One of the successful entrants was Alexander Ikawah, with Afropolis: the Child of Prophecy. Alexander also directed the film Relay Point Omega. There were two different endings to the film, which followed a young slum girl who found herself in the middle of a revolution after witnessing a brutal police killing The audience then got to pick whether they would help the revolutionaries or not. The film was screened at the Tuonane Siku Za Usoni Digital Art Installation held at the Shifteye Gallery.

Music collectives like EA Wave are re-imagining African music—melding industrial and futuristic beats with traditional nuances. Afri Na Ladi are re-thinking visual aesthetics that accompany art. Using striking imagery and props to create unreal settings and environments. Almost trying to carve out a new world where this new “wave” of thinking is accepted.

Gregg Tendwa of WiBO culture is a curator of music. He explains to us why Friday’s theme at Art @ The Bus this June is labelled ‘Afrofuturism’.

“We concentrate on inspiring what the future in the creative space would look like, and exploring what it offers now. It involves culture, tech, fluid concepts and innovations. What we have right now is a stagnation in culture. People imagine that culture is something static. That’s wrong- culture should be dynamic. At Art @ The Bus,we want to see the future of emerging cultures such as the club culture, fashion, music, software and hardware.”

For the theme on Friday, Art @ The Bus has teamed up with the Red Bull Music Academy to choose who will perform for the night. In terms of the future of music in Africa, the Red Bull Music Academy is on top of trends in the industry.

“Performing on that night we have Blinky Bill, who we know has spearheaded afrofuturism in Kenyan music with Just a Band. We also have Thibo Tazz, who is an alumnus of the academy and is an amazing DJ and Producer. This brings about an interesting idea: DJ’ing isn’t all about spinning behind the decks. DJ’s are now producers and creators of music, their contribution is felt throughout the entire musical value chain.” Gregg continues.

What Afrofuturism looks like in Nairobi  within a simple white frame: bits and bobs, computers, tech, kitenge, the iPhone, a bit of dirt (just for kicks), organic fruit, vinyl, some light and love and a whole lot of youthful spirit.

The permeation of afro-futurism will expand rapidly, as more and more people dare to re-imagine an African future with no boundaries. The future is here and now.