The Art of Afrofuturism

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The first three posts (1, 2 ,3) mainly focused on the musical, cinematic and literary side of the afrofuturist movement. Now a special post dedicated to afrofuturism in visual art, spotlighting the artists that featured on the festival: Charl Landvreugd, AiRich, Bryan Green, Boris van Berkum and JoAnn McNeil!

Visual art, perhaps more than any other artform, is a vessel to communicate imagination. Since afrofuturism, in its core, is about imagination, about the envisioning of many different futures stemming from cultural heritage and life experiences, it becomes apparent that art is an important pillar of the movement, which at the same refuses to be boxed into one straightforward formula or genre. This stunning gallery, compiled by the influential culture and lifestyle platform Blavity, testifies of this, showcasing art varying between miniature collages, sci-fi comic style scenery, mysticist surrealism and psychedelic, art nouveau flavoured mural painting.

My first acquantance with the visual art component on the festival was during the Friday workshop with Nyfolt. The workshop took place in WORM’s unique, historical analog synthesiser studio, where we as participants were allowed to play around to freely experiment with the several synths or make free-expression drawings. JoAnn showed some paintings and explained how, in her work, imagination, emotion, painting and sound are mutually reinforcing sources of inspiration. Her art, which we will see below, is a colourful, energetic form of abstract expressionism which questions the world, perception, taken-for-granted identities and experiences of the Self.

The notion of perspectives and perception is a central element that came back in the work of all featured artists in different ways..

1. Charl Landvreugd

The acclaimed Surinamese Dutch multi-talented artist and art historian Charl Landvreugd was the most prominently featured artist at the festival. His multimedia installation, situated in the venue’s concrete club hall, was on display the entire week and in between the day workshops and the night programme, people walk in and at a set time each day, the artist himself gave a presentation about the meaning and story behind the work.

The installation consisted of three walls, divided into five areas to which short fragments of moving imagery was projected. The fragments – a drivethrough through the Gotthard tunnel,¬† a street in Amsterdam, an excavatoin site in Suriname – all showed aspects of spatially distant memories and connections that are common to the experience of people from the African diaspora in Europe, afro-caribbeans as well as several generations of African immigrants, many of whom have lived in different countries and have family all over the world. From this starting point he also hinted to an extension of afrofuturism into a diverse, multi-perspective futurism in which these multiple delocalised social and family relationships will increadingly be part of everyone’s reality.

The original idea was that this space would be most profoundly experienced in a true clubbing setting, with a DJ guiding the multi-sensory experience of the meaning of dislocated connections, but unfortunately, this was not allowed for formal reasons so instead, a minimal, hypnotising trap beat, produced by Landvreugd himself, sampling afro-Caribbean non-verbal sound-language, looped trough the speakers.

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An impression of Landvreugd’s installation: art in a minimalistic club setting

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 Spectators walking through the space

The video’s were drawn from several earlier works, built up over the years of research and art projects in the area of african and afro diasporic experience and aesthetics, such as his project dedicated to the late Surinamese writer and cultural critic Edgar Cairo about the legacy of slavery traumas, expressed in the form of poetic stories.

Video art combined with traditional call & response storytelling for the projec with Edgar Cairo last year

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A future-noir styled photoshoot on the night streets of Rotterdam featuring Landvreugd himself, wearing one of the Transformers masks that appear as a leitmotiv in many of his works, legacy of his youth when he was involved in a breakdance crew called the ‘Transformerz’

2. Boris van Berkum

The Dutch artist Boris van Berkum is another versatile name with a longstanding carreer and experience in different areas of the art spectrum but mainly focusing on sculpture and drawing. His psychedelic style is strongly influenced by traditional cultures, aesthetics and techniques from different parts of the world including Africa and the Caribbean.

A turning point in his artistic carrier took place when he was renting an event location, which was once used by people from the Afro Surinamese community for a traditional Winti ceremony. In an interview (in Dutch), he tells how winti Priestess and community leader Marian Markelo was guided by her ancestors to find somebody to restore the use of traditional, pre-slavery African masks in Winti practice, and was lead to sculptor Boris. Their joint initiative led to a brilliantly afrofuturistic project in which traditional masks from the Wereldmuseum Rotterdam were 3D scanned and, on the basis of this digital information, recreated for practice. This project became an important factor in the protest against plans from the museum to sell the entire Africa collection, going by the slogan “I am not for sale,” referring to the slavery history and the continuing colonialist commodification of the cultural heritage of living people in the city of Rotterdam.

“I am not for sale”: digital 3D scanning technology brings west-African ceremonial objects back to life

Van Berkum’s replicas are curated by the museum but available for use at events and ceremonies. The giant bust of the snake god Papa Winti was displayed at Afrofuturism Now! alternately in the upper entrance hall by day and behind the DJ booth at night.

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Close up of Van Berkum’s Papa Winti bust

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Papa Winti on display during the friday night party, featuring oldschool afrobeats & disco dj Philou Louzolo

https://soundcloud.com/urbanessence/ue31-philou-louzolo-presents-afrigalactic

Fresh mix from Philou Louzolo that perfectly captures the atmosphere of the Friday party

3. AiRich

Saturday afternoon, the Wunderbar foyer was decorated by an artist who is one of the most promising upcoming tastemakers in visual art and fashion in the Netherlands, with tons potential internationally as well. I’m talking about the a young, Amsterdam based Surinamese-Dutch photographer, fashion stylist and multimedia artist AiRich. Her photography and short videos excel in creating a rich universe of new realities in a very minimalistic way, without the use of extensive sceneries or attributes but with a powerful combination of bright, often pastel flavoured colors and expressive clothing. By the exclusive use of black models she counteracts the dominant Western ideas of beauty.

#PHOTOBOOTH is a new project of hers, launched last year, born out of dissatisfaction with conventional event photography. Psychedelic afrofuturist backgrounds and atributes transport visitors into the universe ‘Made By AiRich’. Next to and after the day workshop ‘drawing your inner mind-space’ by Ras Mashramani, the festival’s visitors were restyled and captured in the booth.

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Moor Mother Goddess & Rasheeda

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Bryan Green

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Myself

With the project, she travels to a wide variety of events and festivals such as Amsterdam Open Air, Kwaku and LowLands and will go international very soon. If there are event bookers reading this > CONTACT VIA THE ARTIST’s OFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGE.

During the film section, two of her short video’s were shown, which also shows her potential in directing music video’s, check them out here >>

Absolutely stunning music video made for and with the Philly born, Krakow (Poland) based experimental vocalist Poet Af Black

And a teaser clip for the Art Chi Tex project, an afrofuturistic film project by Poet Af Black and Melanin Kris, set in Amsterdam

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Two of my absolute favourite favourites of her photography works

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AiRich inspired me to improvise my own cyberpunk / tumblr aesthetics photoshoot in the industrial bathroom area of WORM, featuring the artist herself!

For a more in depth portrait, read AiRich’s feature article for AFROPUNK!

4. Bryan Green

Bryan Green, also from Philly and a close affiliate of the Philadelphia afrofurist scene, came over from all the way from Krakow, Poland, where he is a singer and percussionist in Poet Af Black’s Ankh Orchestra. But he is also an amazing video artist who has worked several times with Moor Mother Goddess.

Poet Af Black & Ankh Orchestra live

His freshest work is a video edit: SIFR SUNYA ASUNRA featuring music from Moor Mother Goddess, officially out since yesterday. This was demonstrated during the sci-fi readings, with in the background essay readings by Rasheeda about the ancient egyptian sun god Ra – referring to the legendary musician and philosopher Sun Ra who also appears in the vid – space-time and politics!

Another video featuring Camae before she started the Moor Mother Goddess project, as a lead singer of the Philly punk band The Mighty Paradocs!

Another music video directed and edited by Bryan Green that absolutely blows my mind: ‘Hotel Rwanda’ by Philly songwrited and MC Queen Jo

5. JoAnn McNeil

Even though her work itself wasn’t on display as such, being one half of the duo Nyfolt and regarding the importance of the visual and the sonic in Nyfolt’s work, I wanted to feature some more of her work here. She brought a couple of small paintings to the work shop as a first inspiration but, as I found out on her artist page, she usually works with a combination of acrylic and spray paint on big canvasses. Here two recent examples that I really like.

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‘I Am Focused’ (2015)

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A work from 2013

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JoAnn surrounded by her work at an exhibition in St. Louis in 2013

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The artist at work

>> Buy her creations HERE <<

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Prepare for two more posts, one short article about Afrofuturism and the black speculative fiction scene and a big feature about the climax of the week: PANTROPICAL with Islam Chipsy, Mutamassik, DJ Firmeza & DJ Lilocox !

 

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