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“Afrofuturism should better shown and experienced than just talked about” – Rasheeda Phillips
The first day of Afrofuturism Now! Was an acquaintance with its many forms in literature, film and music. Including literature is an exciting new area for both WORM and Generation Bass, who have been heavy on music and some film but less on textual culture. And it turned out very well.
The festival opening consisted of readings from the main panelists: co-organiser Rasheedah Phillips from the the Afrofuturist scene’s central platform The Afrofuturist Affair, poet, spoken word performer & sound artist Moor Mother Goddess and Ras Mashramani from the intersectiopnal emancipatory sci-fi platform Metropolarity. All are based in Philadelphia, one of the main home bases of the afrofuturist scene in the United States and worldwide.
After some first opening words from the WORM crew and Rasheeda, Ras started with introducing the Metropolarity platform: a place where contrasting identities in race, class, gender and sexuality express their realities of growing up in contemporary world by means of science fiction. She read a throat grippingly powerful story as an example of the literature featuring in the zines they publish, written by herself, about the bleak coming of age of a caribbean immigrant in California and the self-perpetuating reality of the term ‘thug’ in America’s language politics.
Moor Mother Goddess performed a short spoken-word poem about the significance of Afrofuturism as a concept.
Rasheeda Phillips continued on that with a conceptual story about the physical mystery of time and our culturally shaped perception of it. What if, she asked, the universe would, at some point in 2016, reverse its expansion and time would start running backwards. How would humanity respond? How would our verbal and conceptual dealing with time, dominated by the Western idea of time as a line, come to terms with such reality? As a deeper message behind it, the story suggested that African, indigenous American or Asian conceptions of time might well be much better suitable to the reality of the 21st century that we are increasingly experiencing already now?
After the main panellists, there was an improvised, yet brilliant lecture from the Dutch writer and anthropologist Theo Paijmans, who connected the almost entirely ‘white’ phenomenon of belief in UFOs and alien abductions to the reality-based African American folklore of the Night Doctors, mysterious kidnappers who captured African Americans for scientific experiments. His research culminated into a literary, steamFunk-esque novel which is about to be released in both Dutch and English and could be heard here as a first, ‘pre-release’ teaser.
After a first break, the Ethiopian post-apocalyptic sci-fi film ‘Crumbs‘, which we promoted in February this year, was shown. This in itself was a special opportunity because apart from its premiere on the prestigious Rotterdam Film Festival, it has never been shown anywhere in The Netherlands. The Addis Ababa based Spanish director Miguel Llansó happened to be on amicable terms with the WORM crew, having fallen in love with the venue, always dropping by on his visits to Rotterdam for the film festival.
‘Crumbs’ is a masterpiece which, in a way that reminds Terrence Malick, excels in communicating a subconsious atmosphere without telling a clear-cut story or presenting a thoroughly complete fantasy universe. The jawdropping Garcia Marquesque magic-realist story shows the life of a couple: Gagano, the protagonist-hero, a middle-aged man with a deformed body, and his wife, the young and beautiful Selam. They go through the all-too human relationship issues while living alone in a deserted bowling hall, where the bowling rails keep magically spitting out bowling balls and other objects. The bowling machine, however is a space-time port behind which in a distant place, a singing monk-like figure called Santa Clause, dressed up as Santa Clause, pretends to fulfill their wishes but never does. Outside in the sky hovers a rusty spaceship which has been there since the beginning of memory. Now it starts to move and seems to be preparing for its return to a distant planet. Gagano, who believes he and his wife belong on that planet and wish to escape this barren land, decides to find and meet Santa Clause in person to fulfil his wish, which leads him into an epic journey in which every crumb of the civilisation that is familiar and banal to us starts to loose its reference and acquires a mythical significance.
Watch the trailer here again
After the movie, the people gathered in the venue’s bar, to chat, evaluate and eventually dance to the melodic, somewhat shangaanflavoured afrobeat called ‘Bacardi house’, created of the upcoming Pretoria (South Africa) based talent DJ Spoko, who was booked for this very first afterparty. The vibe had to build up slowly and, apart from a few enthusiasts who demonstrated an advanced-looking kuduro choreography, it took a while before people were drawn towards the dance floor.
I (Sxmbra, which means ‘ghost’ just like ‘Spoko’), would have loved to meet and interview him in person. But I had to catch the last metro to the house where I stayed so I missed this opportunity. Expect some more attention for DJ Spoko soon on Generation Bass!
Check out DJ Spoko’s newest track
DJ Spoko behind the desks