Afrofuturism. science fiction in African settings

You’ve probably come across an article or two about the adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s 2010 novel Who Fears Death; a story set in a post-apocalyptic Africa that follows a young girl who seeks to discover the meaning behind her own magical powers, as well as the nature of the powerful forces trying to end her life. The show is set to be aired on HBO and produced by George R.R Martin (yes the George who authored the Game of Thrones series).

But more interestingly is the attempt by many publications to define Nnedi’s work. Her books merge the genres of science fiction, fantasy, magical realism and just regular realism. Her work has been labeled Afrofuturistic. But what does this term even mean? According to Nnedi in her OkayAfrica interview, the label stems from African-American visions of the future, and she goes on to explain further: “The roots are African-American and I feel very strongly, that the roots of Afrofuturism—if we’re talking about narratives of whatever kind be it visual art, music, whatever—it should be rooted in the continent first. Because that’s where we came from, and then we left. Some of us left, and some of us stayed, and some of us go back. That’s the root of it.”

In a literary landscape that portrays African literature in a single facet, it is a welcome relief to see more of Nnedi’s work and similar genres receiving mainstream media attention. This show comes on the heels of movies like Black Panther to be released soon. It is about time we saw more of this, especially considering the imagination it lends to children. In the words of Tim Fielder; New York graphic artist and animator: “kids are able now to see themselves in environments that are expansive, both technologically and in terms of social mores and gender” beyond the poverty, disease, and war-driven narratives of Africa.