February 25, 2018

∴ The Afrofuturism behind ‘Black Panther’

Brent Staples—The New York Times:

The cultural critic Mark Dery galvanized a generation of artists and intellectuals when he argued during the 1990s that African-Americans whose histories had been obscured by slavery and racism were in danger of being written out of the future as well — unless they engaged the areas of art, literature and technology through which that future was being envisioned.

Mr. Dery coined the term “Afrofuturism” to describe the work of artists who used the tools of science fiction to imagine possible futures.

The genre of Black Panther, among other properties and arts, was unknown to me until the film debuted and I began reading the word “Afrofuturism.” ‘What is this?’ I thought and later realized what a rich field of work could inhabit the genre. Imagine an Africa uncolonized and untouched by the slave trade. Even without the incredible superhero-like resources and technologies of the comic, the mind boggles at the possibilities.

Would Africa have developed similarly to South America? South Asia? Something world history hasn’t seen? We can never know. Afrofuturism is akin to gaming out a battle or a war by changing one decisive event—the act or the death of a general, the introduction of a new weapon, say—and second-guessing succeeding events and outcomes in light of that change. Wakanda is an extreme example of playing “what if,” but as the film and the comic portray we would certainly live in a very different world.

England would never have known the profit enjoyed from the slave trade. America would never have known rapid economic expansion, and then the ethnic and racial violence and strife of the twentieth and 21st centuries. Black and brown Africans would never have known genocidal disaster and their descendants would not have known marginalization in a distant, white-majority country.

What would all of our histories look like in retrospect? The mind boggles.

#BlackPanther #Afrofuturism #Marvel

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