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The New Afrofuturists

Female faces of afrofuturism

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Black Panther is THE film you need to see this year. Smashing the box office at over $1 billion, the new sci-fi has a look that is very different from the standard Hollywood superhero movie – its aesthetic is heavily inspired by the art movement Afrofuturism. Developing from the 1950s and 1990s, Afrofuturism explores the relationship between technology and african/african-american culture. It interrogates and re-examines the struggles throughout history of black people of colour through the lense of sci-fi, fantasy, and magical realism. A new generation of afrofuturist artists have grown out of the 21st century, lead by some incredible women who are redefining the movement.

Ruth E. Carter

Ruth E Carter illustration

We can’t talk about Black Panther without starting with the incredible work of Ruth E. Carter. The costume designer was nominated for a Saturn Award for her work on the film and has been nominated for Oscars for her previous work. She travelled to southern Africa to collect research for the film and drew a lot of inspiration from the aesthetics and clothes she saw there. Carter also received permission to incorporate traditional Lesotho designs into the costumes, ensuring her work wasn’t cultural appropriation.

 

 

Octavia E. Butler

Octavia E Butler illustration

One of the forerunners of Afrofuturism was Octavia E. Butler, an American science fiction writer. A feminist working-class black woman growing up in the 50s, Butler said: “I began writing about power because I had so little.” Uninspired by the white-male-dominated sci-fi of the time, she began writing her own explorations of sex, race, and power. She won multiple Hugo and Nebula awards, and her name proudly holds a place in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

 

 

FKA Twigs

FKA Twigs illustration

A current pioneer of Afrofuturism is FKA Twigs; award-winning singer, dancer, musician, and producer. Growing up in Gloucester, she has shot to fame with her otherworldly genre-defying look and sound. Her music video for Two Weeks is a perfect example, where FKA Twigs, a giant golden goddess, sits surrounded by tiny dancing versions of herself. It is surreal, unnerving, and utterly impossible to look away from. This ethereal celebration of blackness is what Afrofuturism is all about.

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