The evolution of the “black women” in America is definitely a story that is not often told. There are very few movies, history books, and novels that accurately tell our tale. So what do we do then to make our story known? How do we prove the pain and suffering we had to endure to make it in this country? What’s left to show our sweat and tears that built this country? My answer, is that it’s in the arts.
Lately, I’ve taken a keen interest in things that’s heavily symbolic to what role black women play in Western culture. I’ve noticed that the rise of postmodernism has paved the way for black artists to find ways to accurately portray our history, in a way that’s both nuanced and enthralling.
Postmodernism is an art movement that’s meant to reject the ideas and various aspects of modernism. Some of the most famous postmodern artists include Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, and Banksy.
The rise of postmodernism has helped set the stage for artists to tell the tale of black women in America. The rise in Afrofuturism can attest to that. Coined in the 90s by Mark Dery himself, Afrofuturism is a type of art that portrays African Americans in a sci-fi, futuristic setting; which often entails spaceship-pyramids and block shaped afros.
Afrofuturists believe that African Americans have lacked a claim to their identity, so they reimagine a future where that claim is much stronger and widely accepted.
Many describe this genre to be a sort of escapism for African Americans. Our position in society continually consists of us having to justify our existence, and afrofuturism allows us to reimagine a world where our identity doesn’t need justification and it instead can be celebrated.
Artwork done by Ikiré Jones
Not only is this fascinating, but the artwork is beautiful. A simple google search can have you lost in all of the elegant murals and paintings of black women with bronze skin draped in silver dashikis, floating around in their pyramid spaceships.
Artwork done by Mati Klarwein
Author Ytasha Womack told the the Guardian that Afrofuturism is, "The intersection between black culture, technology, liberation and the imagination, with some mysticism thrown in, too… It's a way of bridging the future and the past and essentially helping to reimagine the experience of people of colour."
Afrofuturism peaked in the 90s, and it seems to be making a strong comeback as it slowly and surely makes its way into mainstream media. The most obvious example of this is the character Garnet from the Cartoon Network show “Steven Universe.” This character, played by Estelle, embodies everything afrofuturists believe in.
Taken from AV Club
Afrofuturists strongly believe in the fluidity of sexuality and the idea of black women being strong, nurturing people. Garnet is portrayed to be a motherly figure, as she is well respected and looked up to by her peers. With all the hints that Garnet and another female character on the show had a romantic relationship, only furthers her afrofuturistic characteristics.
As I’m doing my research for this, the phrase “things will get better” keeps on replaying in my head. I feel like this genre is a manifestation of this idea that there’s hope for the future. For a race that has been dismantled and torn apart from the very core, afrofuturism provides an escape from our painful history and conceives a future where their identity is fully restored.
Afrofuturism symbolizes hope for our people to be uplifted, and calls for an erasure of our past. The future is really all we have left to look for hope. As African nations struggle to survive from the effects of the colonialism, and black people all over the world suffer from discrimination and prejudice, we have to hope that in the future things will get better.
I wonder how long it’ll be before this genre goes full-on mainstream, and we get to see all the beautiful dark skinned, gold-dashiki-wearing, kiny-afros everywhere.
Written By: Lidia Abraha