Afrofuturism explores the technological effects on black culture and art for the past 50 years. At a very early age I was introduced to Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk (“Sir Nose Devoid of Funk”), Parliament & Funkadelic…Mothership Connection:
Starchild, Citizens of the Universe, Recording Angels/We have returned to claim the Pyramids/Partying on the Mothership/I am the Mothership Connection/Gettin’ down in 3-D/Light year groovin’…
Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, the birth of hip-hop/rap music: cultural evolution, technology, artificial intelligence, and extraterrestrial life. Octavia Butler’s Kindred was my first black sci-fi literature.
Sun Ra got me to thinking about the work I plan on doing as research in the near future.
Of all the jazz musicians, Sun Ra was probably the most controversial,” critic Scott Yanow said, due to Sun Ra’s eclectic music and unorthodox lifestyle. Claiming that he was of the “Angel Race” and not from Earth, but from Saturn, Sun Ra developed a complex persona of “cosmic” philosophies and lyrical poetry that made him a pioneer of afrofuturism as he preached awareness and peace above all. He abandoned his birth name and took on the name and persona of Sun Ra (Ra being the ancient Egyptian god of the sun), and used several other names throughout his career, including Le Sonra and Sonny Lee. Sun Ra denied any connection with his birth name, saying “That’s an imaginary person, never existed … Any name that I use other than Ra is a pseudonym.
In Second Life I installed a 3D collection of afrofuturistic artifacts from popular culture, including literature, hip-hop, anime, and manga. An afrofuturistic Youtube playlist of music videos plays there, as well.
Second Life URL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Boga/229/212/21 (must have Second Life installed to visit)
Before I knew it I was creating a Youtube playlist of songs for a new immersive 3D art installation on my Boga sim in Second Life. I began constructing what would become a 3D version of the album cover art for Cosmic Slop by Pedro Bell.
It took the rest of the day to add the major elements…
While the moniker “Afrofuturism” and the study thereof are relatively new phenomena, we can trace a long legacy of Afrofuturist cultural production. Scholars of Afrofuturism have recognized elements of the project in the work of novelist Ralph Ellison and bandleader Sun Ra as early as the 1950s (Eshun 1998; Weheliye 2003; Yaszek 2005; Zuberi 2004). This vein of artistic production continued through the 1970s with the prose and stage works of Ishmael Reed and LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) and the disco-funk of George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic up through the 1980s with the street art of Jean-Michel Basquiat and the raps of the Ultramagnetic MCs. Today, the most notable examples of Afrofuturist activity continue to be found in the world of hip hop, where artists like Cee-Lo, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, and Kool Keith–formerly of the Ultramagnetic MCs–have laid claim to the supersonic identities, interplanetary alter egos, and robotic surrealities of the Afrofuturist legacy.
There’s a lot more I want to do but in the meantime I’ll end with this: