By RONALD BLUM, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Afrofuturism is in the limelight at Carnegie Hall as New York’s bastion of music and culture takes another step toward normality.
Flying Lotus, also known as the Grammy-winning FlyLo, debuts at Carnegie on Saturday night to open a two-month Afrofuturism festival, which includes more than 80 events at the venue and partner institutions.
“It’s something that’s kind of hard to explain in a way,” said Adriaan Fuchs, Carnegie’s director of festivals and special projects. “But at the same time, it’s something you feel and know as soon as you see it.”
Carnegie was closed from March 13, 2020, to October 6 due to the coronavirus pandemic and presented a “Voices of Hope” digital festival last April. This year’s festival is the first in-person since “Migrations: The Making of America” in 2019.
Afrofuturism has its roots in African-American science fiction and encompasses literature, music, and visual arts exploring African-American culture dating back to slavery.
Other concerts include the Sun Ra Arkestra with 97-year-old saxophonist Marshall Allen and guests Kelsey Lu and Moor Mother (February 17), Nicole Mitchell and Angel Bat Dawid (February 24), Chimurenga Renaissance and Fatoumata Diawara (March 4) , the Carl Craig Synthesizer Ensemble (March 19) and Theo Croker (March 26).
Carnegie released a timeline of African-American music in conjunction with the festival.
“It’s an extension of other programming explorations involving black artists that they’ve done in the past,” said Ytasha L. Womack, author, filmmaker and dancer on Carnegie’s curatorial board for the festival. “But it also shows that they’re way ahead of the curve in acknowledging that Afrofuturism is a famous art form.”
Plans began in 2018 when Fuchs consulted writer Alondra Nelson and Mark Dery, who first used the term Afrofuturism in her 1993 essay “Black to the Future” in the South Atlantic Quarterly.
Dery defines the word “as an African-American meaning that appropriates images of technology and a prosthetically-enhanced future in service of African-American visions of things to come and a future that includes black people.”
“Cultural theorists, public intellectuals and cultural workers, as we called them on the left, at the forefront of theorizing this emerging phenomenon, have rightly challenged the Americancentrism of my view,” said Dery, “for a more Afrodiasporic and pan-African understanding of Afrofuturism that keeps in mind the legible imprint of colonial horror, certainly throughout Africa, but also elsewhere in Europe, etc.
Carnegie’s board for the festival also includes Afrofuturism scholars Reynaldo Anderson, King James Britt, Louis Chude-Sokei and Sheree Renée Thomas.
Womack wrote the 2013 book: “Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture”.
“I thought a lot of people I met were excited about ideas involving liberation, imagination, technology, mysticism and black culture,” she said. “I felt compelled to write the book because I wanted people to find themselves in the book. I wanted them to realize that they weren’t alone. And I wanted them to feel that he was normal to think about black culture, time and space, and see that they were part of a larger trajectory of people.
Events will take place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Juilliard School, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Harlem’s Studio Museum, National Sawdust and the New York Film Academy. The Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians offers an online component.
“You really have the opportunity to dive deep into something and attend film screenings and hear musical performances and panel discussions and all kinds of different aspects of a specific topic,” Fuchs said. . “It’s also a wonderful tool for organizations to reach new, young audiences and, in a way, be part of something that kind of cuts through, I think, a lot of the cultural noise in New York because ‘there’s so much going on.”
Carnegie launched its first international festival, “Berlin in Lights,” in November 2007, and Jessye Norman organized “Honor! A Celebration of African-American Cultural Heritage” in March 2009.
Dery criticizes the way some have interpreted Afrofuturism, which he says “in its most superficial incarnation (has) been turned into fashionable newspaper articles whose authors run out of time and don’t do the grunt work. “.
“That’s what capitalism does,” Dery said. “It’s taking some kind of transgressive phenomena and some kind of cultural insurgencies and it’s flaying their skins and letting the meat of the matter rot and then turning it into ready-made, ready-to-wear fashion/lifestyle choices. “
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