Wanuri Kahiu’s TEDX talk about Afrofuturism to a Nairobi audience in July 2012 was an insightful discussion at the intersection of its Afro-American origins, its application within an African context, and how it compares to her film Pumzi. Drawn by the work of Mark Dery [Black to the Future] and the cosmic consciousness of the music and performance of Sun Ra, Wanuri looks inward into her own culture in search of an African-based Afrofuturism, a concept formulated and proposed by Mark Dery in this way:
Speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of 20th century technoculture---and, more generally, African-American signification that appropriates images of technology and a prosthetically enhanced future---might, for want of a better term, be called Afrofuturism. The notion of Afrofuturism gives rise to a troubling antinomy: Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces of its history, imagine possible futures? (Mark Dery, "Black to the Future").
These questions provoked Wanuri to ask similar ones regarding the significance of myths and legends in African cultures as it relates to Afrofuturism, which led her to Mount Kenya, which according to Kikuyu tradition is the home of God.
However, even before she learned about these myths and legends, she recalls the stories that her mother told her as a child. Later as she grew older Wanuri discovered her own stories, exploring the cultural expression and creative works of Africans throughout the continent. In her talk she explores their link to the notion of Afrofuturism, such as the fascinating work of Nigerian writer Ben Okri and the idea of the spirit child. She also recalls the Sangoma of South Africa and how they deal within the spiritual realm. She notes that in Dogon mythology, there had been legends about the planet Surius B, before it was known to western scientists. Hence, in all of her examples she attempts to show that based on the conceptual framework of Afrofuturism as outlined by Mark Dery, Africans too are using it to stake a claim in the future. That Africans have and continue to use technology from outside of their spaces in a manner specific to African needs. That Africans have used technology as a means to understand their world and their environment. And thus Pumzi reflects this: “my metaphor about Pumzi is life and sacrifice and that we ourselves have to mother mother nature. That we have to make sacrifices in order to live in this world. And that we have to know that our own behaviour will affect generations to come.” In Pumzi, Wanuri Kahiu returns to Kenyan legends and mythology as her protagonist Asha looks to Mount Kenya for survival and a hope for the future.
See the 15 minute TEDX talk: Wanuri Kahiu TEDx Forum On Afrofuturism In Popular Culture http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvxOLVaV2YY
Photo source: tedxnairobi.com