Yesterday evening I went to a very interesting event at the Goethe Institute on Afrofuturism in Short films. The event served as a sort of launch for a Goethe Institute exhibit on Afrofuturism that is on display for the month of February. Goethe appears to hold quite an interest in the continent as I have also been there to attend a screening of the African Diaspora International Film Festival.
As a student of history, I may be prenatally perplexed by concepts such as ‘afrofuturism’. The event consisted of the screening of several short films and a panel discussion on Afrofuturism. While innovative, the films and dialogue left me in varying states of confusion. I was quite disappointed by the highly regarded Kenyan film Pumzi, the first to screen (my companion enjoyed it however). I was surprised to learn that the Goethe Institute had supported the production of Pumzi.
Next up was Drexciya, which examines a shipwrecked smuggler who brings Europeans to Africa. The German film, shot in Burkina Faso, was my favorite of the trio. The final film (another was shown after the panel that I did not stick around for) was a recently composed short by Nigerian-American Adejoke Tugbiyele. Until a little over a month ago (when Nigeria adopted draconian anti-homosexual legislation), Ade has been a Fulbright scholar researching queer communities in Nigeria.
Her production, AfroOdyssey IV, was designed to have maximum shock value by showing same sex frolicking and dance/movement in a church (I believe the church in question was in the US, but am not sure). One of the dancers transformed from what began as a mosquito playing the organ. The film featured readings from writings of Lord Lugard (prominent colonial administrator) and scholarship pointing to the traditional presence of lesbian relationships among the Igbo in Nigeria.
I’m not even sure where to begin with the Q&A, which featured four panelists and Karen E. Milbourne, Curator of the National Museum of African Art as the moderator. Discussion topics ranged from Will Smith, to Sun Ra, Janelle Monae, George Clinton, and Afronauts. The German – Ghanian artist Daniel Kojo Schrade spoke on his reliance on umbrellas in his work. Nothing was emphasized as much as the concepts of space and time however.
I don’t believe I concluded the night any wiser as to the tenants of Afrofuturism and I’m inclined to be cautious of ascribing a genre of science fiction (that’s my tentative view) to a particular race/continent, but attending the event was certainly an interesting sociological experience. A reception this evening launches the exhibition.