Reflective Essay of Afro-Futurism

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  987 Words
Date:  2022-07-18


Afro-futurism is the cultural imagination of a future that has arts, culture, traditions, philosophy of science and technology seen through the lens of black people and culture. Afro-futurism is a factor that cannot be precisely defined, but the key attribute is the fact that it sweeps across the cultural aesthetics which analyze the myriad of problems faced by the black community and their representation soon through platforms like art, media, history and literary works. This literary essay seeks to establish the afro-futurism in literature works by various authors. This essay expounds on the various literature aspects that actively bring out the theme of afro-futurism.

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The authors who bring out the theme of afro-futurism have the sole interest of recovering forgotten black history, culture and the influence of black history to the contemporary black culture. The brilliant story that brings out the science fiction and afro-futurism is Kindred by Octavia Butler. "The Storm" a section in Kindred describes afro-futurism graphically while engaging science fiction as the plot approaches climax (Butler 184). Information is provided concerning the life in the plantation, slaves and their masters. In the context, Butler narrates that some young white men break down the door then bring out roughly Alice's husband, a slave, in addition to flogging Alice's mother (98). As Dana comes to aid the victims, a white man beats her and also tries to rape her before she returns to her real life (99). Dana quickly finds out during her constant travels to the past that her past is vague and not as bright as she imagined. It is a display of afro-futurism in such a way that Dana reconnects with her history with the aim of understanding the history and connecting it with her present.

Nneji Okorafor further denotes Afro-futurism in the narrative of Binti which is a novella describing a tribe that combines culture with science and technology. Binti describes her community as one that is 'beset with scientific innovation and technology' but still finds peace in maintaining their lifestyle by remaining small and private (29). Binti is seen boarding a sort of ship that described as a great living innovation alongside some members of the community. The community also keeps in touch with their way of life and art through the application of Otjize (Okorafor 58). Binti describes how they cover themselves with the earth itself. The aspect of keeping strong cultural traditions and the innovations in science and technology signify the element of afro-futurism in the narrative.

Nneji finds a creative way to display afro-futurism in the narrative Binti through symbolism (45). In the narrative, Binti comes from the Swahili word "binti" which means daughter of. Binti in the story is a symbol of belongingness which means that she is not only a daughter of her parents but also a gift to the whole Himba community. Binti is the representative of the rest of the tribe as well as the entire human race when she stands out as the remaining thing between the Meduse and the annihilation of Oomza Uni population (Okorafor 52). Binti is brought out as a smart character as well as a lady proud of her heritage such that despite the new knowledge of science and innovation, she still wears the Otjize proudly. She is an efficient protagonist who helps her relate appropriately to Meduse which shows that Binti is the future which always finds ways to keep right her cultural heritage.

Okorafor's story of Binti place all the ancient tribes of Africa at a finite point where the African cultures meet the future. It subsequently portrays a picture of afro-futurism that what black people have been in the past and what makes the black people human is intensely capable of meeting and marrying the future embroidered with the stars of science and innovation. Okorafars paints a picture that shows that black culture is undoubtedly capable of traveling to the future and still maintaining their unique customs (45).

Octavia Butler presents the aspect of afro-futurism in her short story Speech Sounds through the theme of communication and the ability to express oneself in words (87). Butler, an African American writer, depicts the character of Rye as a protagonist who helps Butler to communicate the situation of her society at a time when black women expressions of their views were limited in a male patriarchal society. Throughout the narrative, Rye, a Black woman remains silent despite the fact she did not lose her ability to speak after the disasters that struck. She fears that if she speaks in public in a society that everyone is not talking and has a myriad of disabilities and ill feelings, she might be killed (Butler 90). From the story, Rye speaks for the first time trying to help the children. But when she learns that the children can talk, she abandons them, not due to malice but for the fact that she was trying to protect them from the vile and jealousy of the society.

In Speech Sounds, the representation of Rye is that of a dominant black woman with the ability to speak amongst many who cannot speak. Nneji Okarafor sets the narrative in a fictitious time which comprises a despaired time that had a virus attack, new harmful pollutants, radiation and also plagued by diseases (96). This particular time results in much impairment which lead to ill and jealousy among people who have managed to retain most of their body functions. Rye is presented as the dominant woman with the ability to speak who might help the future of the society. It is an example of afro-futurism as shown in the character of Rye. The fact that Butler gives Rye the ability to speak in a community that discredits her and that she was tasked with helping the children to reach their future is a sign of afro-futurism.


Butler, Octavia E. Kindred. Beacon Press, 1988.

Butler, Octavia E. Bloodchild. Four Walls Eight Windows, 1995.

Okorafor, Nnedi. Binti. Tom Doherty Associates, 2018

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