This scholar shows us an ‘Afrofantastic’ future in his South Florida exhibit
Julian Chambliss wants us to think about the future — specifically how Black people are imagining it for themselves.
Chambliss is an Afrofuturism scholar. It’s a concept that started with science fiction, where Black people get to write and tell their own story of the future. It has since expanded to all parts of pop culture.
Most people’s first introduction to Afrofuturism may have been through the hit Marvel movie Black Panther based on the comic book of the same name.
It’s not a new concept. Afrofuturism is built on a long history of Black people imagining life in a better future and what it would take to get there.
Afrofuturism is Chambliss' specialty and it's a topic he’s been incorporating into his college classes at Michigan State University, where he teaches about race, pop culture and comic books.
Chamblis said Afrofuturism allows for people to reimagine familiar Eurocentric narratives or media that may not always engage with people of color.
Afrofuturism is steampunk comics like Bitter Root, populated with Black characters. It’s Octavia Butler’s Black dystopian novel Parable of the Sower, reimagined as a graphic novel. Afrofuturism is even the late, great Prince, singing in the 1980s about a distant 1999.
"For Afrofuturism, one sort of simple way it often operates is that it disrupts our expectations around how systems are supposed to operate," Chambliss told WLRN's Sundial.
Chambliss said it’s even thinking about how Artificial Intelligence can help further a vision of a Black future. With these tools in the hands of Black creators and artists, they can help craft ideas and create visuals that are rooted in their perspectives.
"But for a lot of people, I think especially for a lot of artists, a lot of people who are designers, when they're using these tools, it's an assistant to … sort of empowering their imagination," he said.
Chambliss is visiting South Florida from Michigan, but he’s no stranger to Florida. He’s actually from Jacksonville. He's also the co-curator of an exhibit at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale. It’s called "Afrofantastic: The Black Imaginary in Art, Literature, and Technology," which is on view through December.
Chambliss said his exhibit shows how spaces in South Florida are recovering the narratives of Black people and their contributions to the culture.
"That's a really important sort of conversation to have in a place that has a long and well-established diasporic identity where people from the Caribbean and people from Africa and people of mixed heritage that are a product of that sort of Creole cultural landscape have really made really important sort of contributions," he said.
Listen to the full interview on Sundial above.
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