Afrofuturism: The Next Generation – The New York Times

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Familiar to some, exotic to others, the term refers loosely to an unlikely fusion of parts: Egyptian and other non-Western mythologies, mysticism and magical realism with Afrocentricity, modern technology and science fiction. A freighted concept in more ways than one, it gained traction this year, muscling its way into the pop cultural mainstream via the intertwined worlds of entertainment, art and style.


Rihanna, as an otherworldly warrior queen, in the September issue of W magazine.

Steven Klein; styled by Edward Enninful

In part, Afrofuturism, an aesthetic dating roughly from the 1970s, has taken on a new public face through a new generation of recording artists — Erykah Badu, Missy Elliott and Janelle Monáe among them — who have given it not only a voice, but also a look. You will likely know it when you see it: a high-shine mash-up of cyborg themes, loosely tribal motifs, android imagery and gleaming metallics that might be appropriate for a voyage to Pluto’s outer reaches.

Its latest incarnation seems timely, if not downright inevitable. “With the diversity of the nation and world increasingly standing in stark contrast to the diversity in futuristic works, it’s no surprise that Afrofuturism emerged,” writes Ytasha L. Womack, who chronicled and popularized the evolution of the genre in her 2013 book, “Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture.”