As the scarcely believable interconnectivity of humanity enabled by the Internet, smartphones and social media weaves itself ever tighter it is undeniable that, as a species, we are beginning to forge a collective imagination transcendent of trifles – like time, space or geography – that may have troubled in earlier ages.
The fundamental shift in human condition that this decimation of boundaries is enacting is only beginning to be realised, never mind understood. But there is one group who may have a jump on the rest of us in this regard – the artistic community. Always the first to explore the evolution of psyche and trace the vanishing points of where progress may lead, artists have a knack for defining the future in a language that can be understood in the present. And, sure enough, conversations in the art world are beginning to probe the messy intersection between humanity, creativity and modern technology.
Post African Futures is one of the many exhibitions stepping in to this sphere, but perhaps the only project that does so by attempting to define the role of digital art and technology in exploring Africa’s cultural relationship to new communications technologies. In the project’s final phase, PAF presented The After Life Of Mr. Gold: Episode 4, which featured musicians from Johannesburg and Nairobi – The Brother Moves On, Okmalumkoolkat and Just A Band – collaborating under the pretext of a talk show staged in the after life.
The episode and four-part exhibition in general brought up enough talking points to fill a library of science fiction literature, as can be seen in This Is Africa’s interview with PAF collaborators, Just A Band. In the interview, the Nairobi act chat about the pros and cons of afrofuturism, the birth of the digital age and how the emerging generation of African artists are responding to revolutions in tech and the human condition.
Nairobi is being dubbed the silicon savannah of Africa. How are young artists from your area reimagining their present and future?
Dan Muli: I’d say music in Kenya started being reimagined in the 2000s, whereby artists started to do away with convention. A whole new genre was pioneered by Ogopa Djs, known as Kapuka, which raised the profile of Kenyan urban music. But in terms of future thinking, there currently is an emergent crop. Camp Mulla comes to mind. They are a new generation which is more openminded and much of their experimentation is lyrical rather than stylistic.
Blinky Bill: Even more interesting is that these kids are shunning the obsession with politics; you’ll find them either making Emo music or party sounds. Their storytelling is more introspective and has less to do with, say, the president.
Thoughts on the debate around the use of the term ‘Afrofuturism’?
Dan Muli : I can see where the thinking around Afrofuturism is coming from. I mean, if, say, you are an African kid who grew up in the 80s and saw sci-fi cartoons on TV, you would be sold into the idea since the African stories you consumed did not necessarily have the aesthetics as seen in the cartoons. So it becomes enticing to have a guy playing a traditional Kenyan instrument while hovering above Mars. It completely makes sense, so why not?
Blinky Bill: Of all the classes that African things have been put under, I find the Afrofuturism movement to be the most interesting as a package. I mean if someone was to give me the choice to be either in a ‘world music’ or ‘afrofuturism’ box, I would choose afrofuturism. Look, I don’t necessarily identify or shun afrofuturism, I just find it interesting as a package.
Mbithi Masya: Afrofuturism is a legitimate classification, but we have to agree that it has received a lot of bullshit hype over the years. As much as it may be a classification where people can easily access it, it also separates. It has become a way of keeping stuff from the rest. I think it drives a wedge and keeps Afro conversations from the mainstream. The world is connected and futurism is just that… futurism as opposed to afrofuturism. Why should sci-fi be allotted to afrofuturism when Africa is involved?
Check out the full interview here.