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Literary Afro Futures – World Research Weblog


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Columbia College Libraries is happy to announce the launch of a brand new part of the: “New and Featured Books” within the Butler Library Lounge, Room 214. This show will now embody a set of circulating gadgets from our collections which might be curated round a subject of worldwide relevance. Show themes rotate each semester, and have books in three classes: newly-published titles, common titles, and Columbia authors. You possibly can take a look at these books on the Butler Circulation Desk (third flooring), OR on the Self-Test Kiosks (in the primary foyer or on the third flooring) OR use Columbia Libraries’ new Self-Test app!

“Literary Afro Futures” is the opening theme within the Fall 2023 program. On supply is a sampling of science fiction and fantasy novels (together with comics), novellas, poetry, quick story anthologies, and works of literary criticism by African and African Diaspora authors. This small choice is supposed to be evocative and to encourage discovery of the library’s collections. The exhibit celebrates two closely-related literary genres in regards to the future: “Afrofuturism” and “Africanfuturism”.

“Afrofuturism” is an idea and a motion within the visible arts, dance, trend, movie, music, theater, literature, and philosophy which has been popularized worldwide particularly within the final 5 years by the American Hollywood movies “Black Panther” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Endlessly”. As a literary time period, it first emerged in the course of the Nineties and referred to science fiction by African American authors who imagined Black individuals as the primary protagonists within the storyline and in an imagined future United States or wider universe. It was additionally utilized extra broadly to different types of Black inventive and cultural expression, particularly within the area of jazz music and within the visible arts. In a particular problem of the journal South Atlantic Quarterly (October 1993), Euro-American cultural critic Mark Dery first coined the time period in his introduction to a set of interviews he carried out with three, well-known African American intellectuals, sci-fi author Samuel R. Delany, musician Greg Tate, and cultural research scholar Tricia Rose. The identical textual content re-appeared in print as a guide in 1994 entitled Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture. In 2002, African American social scientist Alondra Nelson edited a seminal assortment of essays on the topic for the journal Social Textual content, bringing the idea extra totally into the academy and provoking its use throughout the disciplines. A more moderen formulation in 2017 by African American novelist, display author, and lecturer, Ytasha Womack appears to seize the spirit of the discourse across the time period because it has developed since then:

“Afrofuturism is a approach of wanting on the future and alternate realities by way of a Black cultural lens. A Black cultural lens means the individuals of the African continent along with the Diaspora…It’s an inventive aesthetic however additionally it is a technique of self liberation or self therapeutic. It may be part of vital race principle. And in different respects, it’s an epistemology, as nicely. But it surely intersects the creativeness, know-how, Black cultures, liberation, and mysticism.” (“Afrofuturism: Creativeness and Humanity.” February 26, 2017, The Sonic Arts Pageant, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; through Sonic Acts,

To make sure, futurism has a protracted historical past in African American letters. Within the Butler Library exhibit, readers will encounter twentieth and twenty first century African Diaspora authors acquainted to many followers of sci-fi and fantasy, corresponding to: Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Tim Fielder, Andrea Hairston, Nalo Hopkinson, N.Okay. Jemisin, and Nisi Scarf; in addition to the poetry and prose of futurist musician Solar Ra. However there are additionally two seminal works from the early phases of African American speculative fiction by Pauline Hopkins and George Schuyler, in addition to anthologies, corresponding to Darkish Matter (2000) and the follow-up quantity, Darkish Matter: Studying the Bones (2004), and Black Sci-Fi Brief Tales: Anthology of New & Traditional Tales (2021), which embody quick tales of futurist fantasy, by the likes of W.E.B. DuBois, Charles Chestnutt, Amiri Baraka, Steven Barnes, Sutton E. Griggs, and Charles Saunders, amongst many others. One more notable anthology brings collectively speculative quick tales by modern writers of African descent from throughout the globe in Mothership: tales from Afrofuturism and past (2013).


“Africanfuturism” is a way more current time period. In 2019, the award-winning, Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor supplied the next in a weblog submit:

“Africanfuturism is just like ‘afrofuturism’ in the way in which that Blacks on the continent and within the Black Diaspora are all linked by blood, spirit, historical past and future. The distinction is that africanfuturism is particularly and extra instantly rooted in African tradition, historical past, mythology and point-of-view because it then branches into the Black Diaspora, and it doesn’t privilege or middle the West. Africanfuturism is worried with visions of the longer term, is serious about know-how, leaves the earth, skews optimistic, is centered on and predominantly written by individuals of African descent (Black individuals) and it’s rooted at the start in Africa. Africanfuturism doesn’t have to increase past the continent of Africa, although usually it does. Its default is non-western; its default/middle is African.” (“Africanfuturism outlined.” Nnedi’s Wahala Zone Weblog. October 19, 2019.)

Definitely, Okorafor isn’t alone in creatively imagining Africans sooner or later. By the use of introduction, see an internet collection of African-authored quick tales in Africanfuturism: an anthology. (2020), edited by Wole Talabi, and printed by the open-access, Wisconsin-based, African literary journal, Brittle Paper ; see additionally, “Afrofuture(s)” printed in 2015 by the Nairobi-based, pan-African writers’ collective, Jalada Africa.


Futurism and components of what could also be acknowledged as ‘science fiction’ should not new to trendy African literature both. They’ve their roots in a corpus of twentieth century African speculative writing which characteristic magic, fable, the supernatural, know-how, and the longer term. As Dike Okoro states:

“Traditionally, the connection of African fiction writers and the SF/fantasy custom most likely spans 5 a long time or extra. Postindependence works and up to date works by African novelists and quick story writers posit the methods the neocolonial expertise influences novelists and quick story writers whose tales embody options that at the moment outlined as traits of speculative fiction and symbolize what may be categorized by critics as “African futurism.” (Okoro, Dike. “Futuristic themes and science fiction in trendy African literature.” In: Futurism and the African Creativeness: Literature and Different Arts. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY : Routledge, 2022. p. 9.)

The exhibit in Butler Library facilities on the more moderen types of “Africanfuturism” by Okorafor and different Nigerian Diaspora writers corresponding to Tade Thompson, Deji Bryce Olukotun, Roye Okupe, and Tochi Onyebuchi; South African writers Masande Ntshanga and Rachel Zadok; Kenyan newcomer Davis Njoroge; Ugandan author and filmmaker Dila Dilman; in addition to anthologies of African sci-fi and speculative quick tales from across the African continent, corresponding to Africa Risen (2022) ; Terra Incognita: New Brief Speculative Tales From Africa (2015) ; and the UK-based collection: AfroSF ; AfroSF2 ; and AfroSF3.

An inventory of all the books chosen for the exhibit is accessible on-line.

For extra introductory details about “Afrofuturism”, see:  De Witt Douglas Kilgore’s “Afrofuturism” in The Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction (2014) and Daylanne Okay. English’s “Afrofuturism” in Oxford Bibliographies (2019).

For additional help, please contact the African Research Librarian,
Dr. Yuusuf Caruso, a member of  World Research at Columbia College Libraries.




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