Marvel’s Black Panther movie opens soon in the US, and it looks fantastic, not the least of it because of the amazing futuristic look of the kingdom of Wakanda.
In Marvel Comics lore, Wakanda is one of the most (if not the most) advanced nations on Earth. Defying ignorant stereotypes of all of Africans living in huts, Wakanda is a technological wonderland clearly years ahead than the rest of the world. It is, however, very much an African nation, and what few glimpses I have seen in the Black Panther trailer make me excited to see how they fused traditional African imagery with futuristic technology.
Black Panther stands to be the gateway through which mass media and audiences will get to find Afrofuturism, an art movement that I personally only learned about last year when I came across word of the comic book Yohance (see header image) by Paul Louise-Julie, a (to quote the author’s website) “space opera with African aesthetics.” The art I’ve seen for this comic looks stunning, incorporating African design elements into the space-age tech and civilizations (“Yohance’s mask is heavily inspired by a Fang mask from Central Africa,” Louise-Julie revealed [in a Nerdist article].).
I love the aesthetics of Afrofuturism that I’ve seen, and the stories I’ve come across in the movement. I’m also just now dipping my toe in the proverbial water, as I start to gather and add some of these titles for later reading. More than just the aesthetics, I love the idea of the movement and what it represents, the empowerment it brings to African and African-descended communities worldwide, dispelling ignorant and racist notions that they are only primitive savages of a past era. Afrofuturism makes a stand not only for the present, but for the future, subverting the tropes, turning them on their heads.
As a fan of speculative fiction, I am excited by the new stories this movement is bringing us, by the new definitions of genres we thought were played out already, by the new ideas which are really old ideas given new bodies in which to travel. As a minority in the US, I am excited about the new voice Afrofuturism brings to communities here and worldwide, about the reclaiming of the black narrative as it relates to the present and the future. As a Hispanic, I’m inspired by the example it gives other minority cultural groups considered primitives or antiquated, that they’ll find their own way to control their future narrative by looking to the past and staking a bold claim in the present. As a Puerto Rican I am excited to think about what shape AfroCaribbeanFuturism might take, and the stories that might emerge from my own country’s African heritage.
The future is indeed African.