Black Kirby and Janelle Monae: The New Cutting Edge of Afrofuturism

Illustration for article titled Black Kirby and Janelle Monae: The New Cutting Edge of Afrofuturism

Afrofuturism, the movement that puts people of African descent at the center of futuristic and science-fictional ideals, has gotten a new avatar in the form of singer Janelle Monae. But there's also a new book coming out, two new art shows, an Octavia Butler graphic novel, and much, much more.

A terrific article in Ebony gives a survey of the new landscape of Afrofuturism. Apart from Monae's new album The Electric Lady, there's also an art show called Black Kirby by artists John Jennings and Stacey Robinson, which reimagines the superhero worlds of Jack "King" Kirby through an African lens.

Jennings also provided the cover art and some interior illustrations to the new book Afrofuturism: The World of Black Science Fiction and Fantasy Culture by Ytasha L. Womack, which surveys pioneers from Sun Ra to Octavia E. Butler. Meanwhile, Jennings is also adapting Butler's classic novel Kindred into a graphic novel.


And the Studio Museum in Harlem is presenting an exhibition of the work of 29 Afrofuturist artists called "The Shadows Took Shape" — including Derrick Adams' recreation of the "giant metallic head of Richard Pryor" from the movie The Wiz. Adams tells Ebony:

From the way the elements of time-travel to the blues and jazz infused in the soundtrack to the way the characters speak, The Wiz uses escapism and fantasy to discuss bigger issues... The same is true for the concepts of Afrofuturism.

The whole article, touching on the work of George Clinton, Sun Ra, Samuel R. Delany and countless other influences on Afrofuturism, is well worth checking out. [Ebony]

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Although it's closer to fantasy than sci-fi, I highly recommend Ishmael Reed's "Mumbo Jumbo" to anyone interested in Afrofuturism. It's sometimes a difficult read, but it packs a ton of information into a short, entertaining novel.