Black Panther is the bomb. One of the most anticipated super hero films, it is living up to every bit of hype, obliterating expectations, shattering myths, spanning a cultural movement and breaking records multiple times over.
It has also brought to the fore Afro Futurism.
What is Afrofuturism?
Afrofuturism a term coined in the 1990s by Mark Dery in an article “Black to the Future,” describes music, literature, and art that contains elements of science fiction, fantasy, surrealism, historical fiction, Afrocentricity, and non-Western elements.
According to Jamie Broadnax creator of the online community Black Girl Nerds
Afrofuturism is the reimagining of a future filled with arts, science and technology seen through a black lens. What makes Afrofuturism significantly different from standard science fiction is that it’s steeped in ancient African traditions and black identity. A narrative that simply features a black character in a futuristic world is not enough. To be Afrofuturism, it must be rooted in and unapologetically celebrate the uniqueness and innovation of black culture.
And here is Dr Wandia Njoya a Kenyan Educator, Pan Africanist and thinker’s authoritative statement on the Black Panther movie.
Black Panther is about imagination. What can a perfect world look like, and can it withstand the legacy of capitalist racism? On that, the movie delivers, big time.
There’s no civilization, no freedom, unless one can imagine the world they’re fighting for. And that’s what is so pathetic about Kenyans who attack us when we want freedom, telling us nonsense like “you’re just talking, but you can do nothing,” not realizing how powerful the imaginary is. And we’ve been dis-educated from imagination by the white man, if people like Bill Gates can call Dambisa Moyo “evil” for imagining an Africa that doesn’t receive Western aid, and can say that Africa doesn’t have time to think and needs only solutions. But those solutions have been imagined by others whom Gates pays a lot of money for them do nothing else but think.
And we need to think very seriously about how a rich, older, white man symbolically lynched a young African woman in public, and Africa said nothing.
The fact that we think imagination is nothing, that arts are useless and theory is a waste of time, shows how badly damaged the African (especially Kenyan) imagination is. That’s why Olufemi Taiwo talks of Africa needing to approach knowledge differently and not just being obsessed with knowledge that is of immediate value.
Here she unexpectedly delves into Afrofuturism ….
In fact, if we weren’t busy trying to pass literature exams to do more useful subjects like engineering, we would know that even our folk tales have utopian worlds like Wakanda. When I was a child, I loved the folk tales that told of warriors rescuing beautiful girls from ogres. There’s a Kikuyu folk tale where, when a warrior killed an ogre that had eaten many people, the ogre turned into a gourd which the warrior cracked, and people walked out of the gourd. There’s a Masai folk tale about a young warrior and girl who agreed to elope, and were to meet at a certain place. When the girl got there, an ogre found her and wanted to eat her. But the girl started singing, to delay the ogre and so that the warrior could find her. That’s a romantic sci fi waiting to be made, if our Kenyan film students weren’t talking about James Cameron, like I had the trauma to see a few years ago.
I share with my students that Masai folk tale to show them what an African romance can look like. The girl in the story was not asleep, like in Sleeping Beauty. She was being intelligent, tricking the ogre by singing, and literally using a song as a GPS for the warrior to find her. And that ogre is the Lex Luther in Superman.
Introducing Osborne Macharia
Osborne Macharia is an award winning self-taught contemporary photographer and multidisciplinary artist. A native of Kenya, Osborne has made a mark both on the local and international scene with a distinctive, surreal and imaginative body of work that aptly encapsulates the Afrofuturism movement. It is no surprise that Macharia was commissioned by Marvel to create an exclusive art piece for the launch of Blackpanther for cinemas in London.
Below is a glimpse of some his iconic works including an elaborate description of the source and inspiration behind each project.
Ilegelunot ‘the chosen ones’
The brief was open and so the title of my piece is called Ilgelunot which in Maasai translates to ‘the chosen ones’. I also created custom typography for the names of the elders that was inspired by geometric tribal lines, shapes and strokes in order to give the entire project its own unique identity
This is the story of 3 blind Maasai elders (originally from Kajiado) who were Black Panther’s most trusted advisors in the kingdom of Wakanda.
The three were rescued by King T’chaka during World War 2 after wandering the vast plains of North Africa for months in search of refuge. As nomads, they got to integrate, assimilate and learn from different cultures and tribes. Exposure to the metallic element vibranium made them blind but also gave them extra ordinary abilities and insight.
Animal Charmers turned Stylish Forest Rangers
This is the story of 3 Hausa herbal men and animal charmers from the Northern State of Katsina in Nigeria, turned stylish protectors of the forest.
The wild animals they once domesticated and used as domestic pets (a tradition passes down from their ancestors) are now expert trackers. Now both man and beast roam the forests at night seeking out illegal firewood harvesters while protecting indigenous flora.
One Source Live Campaign
Africa is in the midst of a Creative Revolution. A new breed of artists, musicians, and fashion designers is changing the way the world perceives Africa.
This was a print campaign for Absolut Vodka one source live campaign depicting 5 of the continents creative revolutionaries as superheroes.
Happy to have collaborated with Absolut Vodka on this project dubbed One Source: Africa’s On Fire both as a creative revolutionary featured in the film as well as the photographer for the campaign.
Magadi – Transforming Ordinary Women to Fearless Fashion Mentors
This is the story of a group of former female circumcisers living in the vast salty plains of Lake Magadi who abandoned their former practice and took up ethnic fashion as an alternative livelihood.
They now shelter young girls escaping early marriage, teaching them fashion tips such as styling, fashion design, print work and modeling for both local and international runways.
Kipipiri story of the Mau Mau
This is the story of a special unit of 4 women in a small village within Kipipiri forest. They were the wives to 4 of the Mau Mau generals and just like their men, they too had leadership roles.
This women would be adorned in the most unique hair styles whenever a full moon was approaching. To the ordinary folk this was normal but to the villagers of Kipipiri their hair style was symbolic.
BOBO: She was the leader of the Kipipiri 4. Once she did her hair, she would walk majestically and gracefully across the village without uttering a word. This was a message to the village women that at midnight they were going to visit the men deep in the forest. Her hair was twisted and curled in a complex design to form a route map to the caves that only her 2nd in command would interpret. Never did they get lost or caught.
CHEP: She was 2nd in command and was always behind Bobo. Being the arms bearer, she was a crafted fighter with more than normal night vision. Her work was to smuggle knives and other blunt weapons for sharpening to and from the Mau Mau hideouts as well as fresh supply of weapons inside her hair.
ACHI: She was the chief cook in the village and in charge of transporting food to the Mau Mau fighters. Her hair was weaved to support carrying baskets of food. At a glance one could tell she had a very strong postured neck. She always prepared an assortment of meals to the fighter’s liking.
MWENDE: She was the lead entertainer and the only one among the 4 who never went into the forest. Instead she stayed behind preparing the women in the village in welcoming their men back home. She was a great dancer with powerful vocals and would lead the women in song and dance as the men approached home. She designed her own mouth piece that had pipes connected to vocal resonators in her hair.
Somewhere in downtown Nairobi, is an old abandoned warehouse, a secret fight club called Mengo. Every month, a group of hardcore fighters come together for the sole purpose of training for international fights.
Mengo is however unlike other fight clubs; its fighters are exclusively people of short stature.
Mangaritos, Mrefu, Sonko and Dudus … members of Nairobi’s Underground Fight Club have undergone years of intense training since they were kids. An elite wealthy group of former fighters is said to sponsor and manage the network. They take part in various fight clubs across the globe and have titles to their names.
MANGALITOS. No one knows where Mangalitos came from, but everyone knows he has lived in the ring longer than anyone else in the Mengo underworld. He was among the First Ten, an elite group that founded the Mengo Fight Clubs. Now he strides across the underworld as the only person to have ever held all championship tiles. With his fading eye sight, his precious lantern is what guides him home.
Mangatos’ fighting is a mix of moves, including a whipping move with a chain tied to his right ankle. His finishing move is a sudden “spinning back ng’oto.”
DUDUS. Dudus is the rain of pain! She is armed with a heat-seeking feya (sling shot) and an insatiable thirst to inflict pain on all her opponents. In the ring, Dudus is incredibly fast and tirelessly focused. By the time she begins the rain of pain, the fight is already over.
First introduced to the ring when she was 10, Dudus is a legend in the Mengo underworld. She is the reigning world champion; her path to victory littered with the screams of her opponents.
MREFU. Mrefu is the immediate former world Mengo champion. He first got into the fight club when he was 5. He spent his entire first decade getting beaten, until he picked a fight with Mende, the then reigning champion.
Songs are still sung of how Mrefu the Brave finished off Mende the Beast with a blindingly fast volley of slaps delivered by a hand covered with a metal chain. Mende never saw them coming, and he never recovered from this defeat. Actually, to this day, no one has ever recovered from “Vibare soo!” Mrefu’s finishing move.
SONKO. No one knows where Sonko came from but one day, he sneaked into the Mengo ring and asked to fight. Quiet, focused, and fluid in the ring, Sonko moves like the fight is a dance. He has held the world championship three times in his decade in Mengo, and is most famous for his finishing move, “Bladaa!” It is a sneaky club attack that forces the opponent to back away instinctively, giving Sonko the chance to head butt them so hard that they lose consciousness.
The story revolves around the Mau Mau (A group of guerilla fighters who played a critical role during Kenya’s struggle for independence).
Rumour has it that within the Mau Mau fighters was a special unit of 5 opticians who hand crafted special made spectacles that they used to spot the enemy at night.
General Njuguna: commander-in-chief of the unit. Fighter since the age of 9. The different stars represent the lives he’s saved.
2nd Commander Kigotho: the last man standing and survivor from his previous battalion. He’s always at the back of the group with his special designed specs that spot the enemy from behind.
2nd Commander Kigotho
Kimani ‘Ninja’ Nganga: hands on fighter and front man in the pack. He’s a master tracker and attributes his level of high senses to the wire dish on his jacket.
Kimani ‘Ninja’ Nganga
Nyakundi: communications expert and voice imitator, he uses the knobs attached to the mouth piece on his specs to imitate 5 different animals using code language.
Karanja ‘the mole’ Jere: normally operates underground with his modified underground breathing suite. His hair is designed to appear like a rodent burrowing through the soil and he’s spactacles are telescopic able to see close to 1km away.
Karanja ‘the mole’ Jere
All images courtesy of Osborne Macharia. Republished with permission.