African Futures Where Do We Go From Here?

Keziah Jones, Nigerian singer-songwriter, in costume designed by Laurence Chauvin Buthaud, on Lagos Island for his music video Afronewave.
Keziah Jones, Nigerian singer-songwriter, in costume designed by Laurence Chauvin Buthaud, on Lagos Island for his music video Afronewave. | Photo: Andrew Dosunmu

At the African Futures Festivals, which took place simultaneously in Johannesburg, Lagos and Nairobi in October 2015, African artists, academics and cultural professionals imagined their continent of tomorrow. A related exhibition will run at the SAVVY Contemporary in Berlin until 7 August. Now, the book about the project, which continues the issues discussed at the festival, was presented there. Here is a sneak peek at the authors’ drafts of the future.


African Futures African Futures | Credit: Kerber Verlag The book African Futures – Thinking about the Future through Word and Image, edited by Lien Heidenreich-Seleme and Sean O’Toole, pursues the same logic as the festival programme: The contents are divided into four chapters, each summarized with a question.
 
In addition to essays, the book explores visions for the future in short stories, graphic novels, photo essays and quotes from writers, artists and thinkers, many of which were presented during the African Futures Festivals.

The authors include Achille Mbembe, Ntone Edjabe, Jean-Pierre Bekolo, Sherif Adel, Pamela Phatsumo Sunstrum, Raimi Gbadamosi, Tegan Bristow, Jonathan Dotse, Wanuri Kahiu and Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi.

Question 1: How do we write about the future?

Alongside Ntone Edjabe (Cameroon/South Africa), the editor of the literary magazine Chimurenga, and the artist, filmmaker and musician Jim Chuchu (Kenya), writer Lauren Beukes (South Africa) deals with the narrative strategies of African visions of the future. In his essay, Jonathan Dotse, an author and blogger in Accra, Ghana, also reflects on the narrative role of technologies such as virtual realities.

“Nothing is settled …”: The book takes up statements from the festival, such as by Achille Mbembe in Johannesburg. “Nothing is settled …”: The book takes up statements from the festival, such as by Achille Mbembe in Johannesburg. | Credit: Kerber Verlag
“Future-past anonymous African deities”: Photographs by Jim Chuchu about the meaning of contemporary African dreams and dreamers “Future-past anonymous African deities”: Photographs by Jim Chuchu about the meaning of contemporary African dreams and dreamers | Credit: Jim Chuchu, Kerber Verlag
Question 2: Where do we begin when we speak of African futures?

Works such as those by photographer Kiluanji Kia Henda (Angola/Portugal), the multimedia artist Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum (Botswana/South Africa) and the artist and illustrator Milumbe Haimbe (Zambia) grapple with the chronology and history of Futurism.

Kiluanji Kia Henda, Homem Novo (New Man) series, 2010–13, performance stills: Redefining the Power Kiluanji Kia Henda, Homem Novo (New Man) series, 2010–13, performance stills: Redefining the Power | Credit: Kiluanji Kia Henda, Kerber Verlag
Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, Beacon, 2015, site-specific installation, VANSA Gallery, Johannesburg, 25 November 2015 – 15 January 2016: Detail of installation showing Beacon wall drawing and Hydro samples (left), Detail of installation showing Pulsar (right) Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, Beacon, 2015, site-specific installation, VANSA Gallery, Johannesburg, 25 November 2015 – 15 January 2016: Detail of installation showing Beacon wall drawing and Hydro samples (left), Detail of installation showing Pulsar (right) | Credit: Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, Kerber Verlag
Question 3: How will technology influence the future in Africa?

In this chapter, the electronic music collective Batuk (Mozambique/South Africa) deals with the continent’s traditional and electronic music and fashion designer Selly Raby Kane (Senegal) presents her avant-garde apparel.

Selly Raby Kane’s Fall/Winter 2015 fashion collection, titled Birds of Dakar Selly Raby Kane’s Fall/Winter 2015 fashion collection, titled Birds of Dakar | Credit: Selly Raby Kane, Kerber Verlag
Rowan Smith, left: Extensions of the Universe, 2007, acrylic on board, cane, imbuia, maple, African rosewood and iroko, dimensions variable, right: 384,403 Kilometres, 2009, moon dust simulant, brass plate, Perspex, 32 × 32 × 16 cm / Credit: Rowan Smith, Kerber Verlag Rowan Smith, left: Extensions of the Universe, 2007, acrylic on board, cane, imbuia, maple, African rosewood and iroko, dimensions variable, right: 384,403 Kilometres, 2009, moon dust simulant, brass plate, Perspex, 32 × 32 × 16 cm / Credit: Rowan Smith, Kerber Verlag | Credit: Rowan Smith, Kerber Verlag
Question 4: Where do we go from here?

The philosopher and author Achille Mbembe (Cameroon/South Africa) writes about geo-political changes on the continent in the 21st century and takes up long-familiar narratives from the past. The artist Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi (South Africa) writes about radical sharing and the graphic designer and comic illustrator Ibrahim Ganiyu (Nigeria) presents a graphic novel about a fictional African nation in the year 2076.
Page spreads from Ibrahim Ganiyu’s work-in-progress graphic novel Nwadie (2015–ongoing) Page spreads from Ibrahim Ganiyu’s work-in-progress graphic novel Nwadie (2015–ongoing) | Credit: Ibrahim Ganiyu, Kerber Verlag