Note from BW of Brazil: The experiences, memories and outlook of African descendants in the African Diaspora is so connected and marred by the oppressive relationship between us and peoples of European descent that many of us have forgotten how to imagine a world in which racism and white supremacy is such a huge part of our lives. The whole reparations discussion figures as a part of the discussion, what has happened, why we are in the situation we are in and what can be done to remedy and repair the situation.
I’ve heard almost all of the arguments and debates that would have us believe that racism is no longer a problem, that the ascension of a tiny parcel of the global African community into legitimately middle and upper class status in essence meaning that all inequalities of the past and present have somehow just disappeared because we are now all equal. This despite all of the studies that continuously show us just how unequal things such as wealth division, health, land and business ownership really are.
I won’t waste any time here expounding on and disputing the facts. Anyone who wants to understand why black populations lag behind that of white communities in so many areas and is able to honestly assess the facts can do their own research on this topic. In nearly eight years, I’ve explored some of the reasons these inequalities continue to exist in Brazil, so however one chooses to believe in terms of how such inequalities came to exist and why they continue to exist, for today’s topic, doesn’t even matter.
The point is that there are very clear differences, on a global level, between the way one will experience life depending on what skin color, phenotype and culture they were born into. With the past five centuries in the record books and the present still deeply indebted to the paths laid out in the past, Afro futurism is a movement that seeks to re-imagine a different future. It’s a movement that seeks to help to imagine our lives under a different lens, from a different perspective that allows to see other possibilities in which our circumstances could be thought of in a completely different manner.
Science fiction, art, history, culture, identity, mysticism and technology are just a few of the means used to take us on this futuristic journey toward liberation and a better future while considering where we’ve been and using it as a sort of spring board to a better future. These ideas, perspectives and images have caught on among some in Afro-Brazilian creative circles. Below are a just a few artists who are taking flight with explorations of afrofuturismo.
Afrofuturism in Brazil: Xênia França, Jonathan Ferr, Larissa Luz and Doralyce unite technology with ancestral tradition
With information from Reverb
With the release of the film Black Panther (released as Pantera Negra in Brazil), in 2018, the concept of afrofuturismo (Afro-futurism) has gained more visibility in Brazil and elsewhere in the world. The trend, which unites elements of African ancestral aesthetics with futurism (in a broader concept, not specific, unrelated to the futurism of painters and poets of the early nineteenth century), has been gaining more and more space in Brazil, especially in music. With the announcement of a Brazilian edition of the iconic Afropunk Festival, confirmed to happen in Salvador next year, we see even more evidence here. The singer Xênia França is considered one of its exponents here, but names such as Larissa Luz, Jonathan Ferr and Doralyce are also included in this aesthetic.
Larissa recently released her third solo album, Trovão. Produced by Rafa Dias of Àttøøxxá, who is also her partner on all tracks, the album combines electronic beats with Afro-Brazilian sound. “I wanted to bring an approach to our ancestry from a contemporary, futuristic, non-obvious perspective, because we already know some things, have seen some things being done in that direction. It’s a record that speaks of ancestry, of faith, of connection with the sublime and the connection of the sublime with the earthly. It talks about African origin religions and practices of these religions, but from a futuristic, contemporary perspective,” summarizes the singer and songwriter from Bahia.
The video “Gira”, directed by Heitor Dhalia, gives a taste of what she’s saying: the video brings the artist into a futuristic setting with explicit references to candomblé, while the song combines Afro-Brazilian matrix touches with electronic beats and effects in the vocal. “I think we’re getting more and more access to what is produced in the world. With the internet, we break down boundaries and connect with a multitude of possibilities that lead us straight into the future. Brazil is a country where black culture pulsates intensely, it is the basis of our construction, an artistic proposal that connects our ancestral roots to the future. There is a lot of argument to work here,” Larissa Luz believes.
A native of the state of Pernambuco based in Rio, singer and songwriter Doralyce is another artist that feels the influência afrofuturista (Afro-futurist influence). Also recently released, the album Pílula Livre is the meeting of the influences of traditional Brazilian music on the singer – coco, maracatu, ijexá and samba – with electronic beats.
“Afro-futurism is this ancestral dive with a technological eye on culture and art, and is also an aesthetic movement. So it gains more strength in Brazil when we have more blacks entering universities, when we have more blacks with their power of speech respected and protected,” she says.
Novíssimo Edgar, Sebastian (of the band Francisco, El Hombre), members of the band Mulamba, Luisa Nascim (Luisa e os Alquimistas), Luê and Jéssica Caitano participate in the album. For her, the movement has been embraced by most black Brazilians with de-colonized thinking. “Afrofuturismo in Brazil is the revolução preta (black revolution) that is already happening. Brazil has a fundamental role when we talk about it, to present new perspectives of society to the world,” she believes.
“Our country has a lot to contribute to Afro-futurism, because it lives the African Diaspora. The people who were kidnapped, enslaved and brought here took root with the Latin, indigenous peoples. This is how the Jurema sagrada, Umbanda, Maracatu de Baque Solto and Maracatu de Baque came to be. This is how the history of Brazilian popular culture was born,” she exemplifies.
On the album Trilogia do Amor, composer and pianist – Rock in Rio’s Palco Favela attraction on October 5 – bets on aesthetics not only in his music, which he defines as urban Afro-futurist jazz, but in the audiovisual: The release comes with three short films directed by the musician that follow this language. The first of them, “A Jornada” (The Journey), came out at the end of April. “In fact, I believe that this aesthetic idea and filosofia afrofuturista (Afro-futurist philosophy) has always been in música negra brasileira (black Brazilian music). Starting with such unique themes around the spirituality of the ancestors. The songs and ideas of the trio Os Tincoãs, for example, had the mystical thing, focused on the religion of the African matrix, praising this cosmologia negra (black cosmology), pointing to the future in a poetic way”, he defends.
But he agrees that today, many black artists are increasingly looking for music that connects them with ancestry and points to the future. “The idea of cosmologia africana (African cosmology) is increasingly strong and active in the country. With that come philosophy and aesthetics,” he ventures. “I see in the streets the aesthetics (in the way) that young black people choose to dress, the poets, my friends, movie directors, plastic artists, all black, also express themselves in a Afro-futuristic way. It’s a language that this generation is discovering, that will still transform, create new arms and discover new paths within this thought,” he predicts.