Afrofuturism and its Influence In Raising Contemporary East African Designers to The World Stage
A narrator on Deutsche Welle, The 77 Percent (2021) said, ‘Whether, in comics, books or designs, the art of Afrofuturism combines tradition with imagination to envision a new form of African culture.’ This paper introduces Afrofuturism as a relatively new design genre; detailing its origin, conflicted definition, aesthetics, perceived scientific and historical philosophies, and manifestations. It further brings to light Afrofuturism’s influence in putting East African contemporaries in the global spotlight - as a growing force in design, technology, film, and the fashion/styling industry. Problem: Afrofuturism contemporaries are not celebrated enough. By critically looking at the five renowned East African Afrofuturists’ works; the paper will inform on the development of the genre with a focus on the developing intersection of African diaspora/traditional culture and modern technology. Objective: The main objective of the study was to explore the definition of Afrofuturism, to critically elaborate how Afrofuturism manifestations are exhibited in the works of these renowned Afrofuturist contemporaries’ as a means to understand, recognize and appreciate manifestations of this genre in design. Design: Using qualitative methods, the study used a mix of exploratory research and multiple case study designs. Critical realism is applied in the study, to appreciate the genre, the artist’s inspiration, and manifestations that have enabled the contemporaries to stand out as celebrated Afrofuturists. Data was collected from Afrofuturist design works, documentary reviews, design magazines and websites, video interviews, critic journals, and essays. Setting: The study was carried out in Nairobi, Kenya. Subjects: The subjects of this study were contemporary East African Afrofuturists. Results: The research results revealed that Afrofuturism’s definition and its interpretation morph from author to author, critic to critic. For some, it is rooted in ‘Africa’s renaissance’ and ought to be renamed as Africanfuturism, for some, a mashup of different cultures to show Africa’s future possibilities, and for others, it’s about ‘reimagining Africa’s past through story, either stolen or forgotten.’ It was also observed that Afrofuturism is not restricted to any single medium; there are Afrofuturism stories, books, photographs, digital art, wearable fashion, movies, and even typography. Conclusion: The study reveals that East African Afrofuturists are inspired by; African culture (both past and present), technology, and superhero movies such as Black Panther, which in turn, have played a critical role in accelerating the appreciation of this genre – shedding a more positive light on the continent’s culture, traditions, creative arts, and ultimately placing her contemporaries on the world map.