Photo: Courtesy of the National Museum of African American History and Culture
The National Museum of African American History and Culture’s much-anticipated exhibit on Afrofuturism opens Friday.
Why it matters: Afrofuturism, a term coined in the 1990s, is having a moment, with spotlights in recent movies, literature and in the food scene, too.
Context: Afrofuturism is a genre that centers Black people in space or in a fantasy setting, or in relation to technology that allows one to escape slavery and discrimination.
- Sheree Renée Thomas, a Black science fiction writer and editor, tells Axios the genre imagines a futuristic world in which Black cultures thrive among evolving technology, social practices and values: It’s “a very revolutionary thought, in a lot of ways, particularly in American culture.”
What’s happening: The 4,000-square-foot exhibit showcases more than 100 objects from music, television, comics and more.
- The “History of Black Futures” area describes how enslaved people imagined their futures.
- “The New Black Futures” area looks at Afrofuturism in the modern era.
- And “Infinite Possibilities” connects Afrofuturism to space, technology, digital activism and popular media.
🎸 Highlights include:
- Chadwick Boseman’s “Black Panther” costume;
- Octavia Butler’s typewriter;
- George Clinton’s wig from Parliament-Funkadelic;
- And Vernon Reid’s guitar.
What they’re saying: “Afrofuturism has also long been a mix of celebration and resistance, musicality and theatricality, achievement and survival,” says the museum’s director, Kevin Young.
The big picture: The genre can be traced back to W.E.B. DuBois’ writings in the 1800s but wasn’t coined until the 1990s.
- American pop culture has embraced it in recent years. See: the “Black Panther” movies and Colson Whitehead’s Afrofuturist novel, “The Underground Railroad,” a story about a literal underground train system during slavery that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
- New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art premiered an Afrofuturism exhibit in 2021, while Bronze, a hot D.C. restaurant that opened this year, has an Afrofuturist theme.
How-to: The exhibition will be open for a year. Timed passes are required to visit the museum.