Politics

Afrofuturism reigns at Seattle museums this June


As we talk through the galleries, chipper chirps of birdsong resound around us. The sounds are coming from the speakers on a large TV screen, where a 3D-animated, lush green tree sprouts from a golden sphere. As the camera zooms out, it becomes clear the sphere is a planet, held in a Black hand, featuring sharp, Kermit-green manicured nails topped with windmills. The short animation, by the Nigerian-American multidisciplinary artist Abieyuwa, is a tiny window into what a futuristic green utopia may look like, and it’s hard not to want to disappear into it. 

“You get this unapologetically Black Mother Nature,” Sun says. “I think it’s really delightful.” 

Sun walks over to an alcove, which Oklahoma artist Jaiye Farrell has transformed with paint. Up close, it looks like an abstract amalgam of white squiggly lines — a dance of ancient petroglyphs — but, through a trick of the eye, when you move further away, the concentric rings of the design become three-dimensional and lure you back in. Could this be a portal to a new dimension? 

Nearby, three white hieroglyphic wall installations by Sneke One, a longtime Seattle graffiti artist, echo Farrell’s ancient-but-futuristic alphabet. The “graffitechture” pieces, Sun points out, are made from materials architects use to mock up building designs, which Sneke One cut up and layered into a new, 3D graphic language. 

“It’s both Afrofuturist and it’s very hip-hop,” Sun says. “This is what Black people do all around the world: We will take technology and flip it.” 

It’s these sorts of visual echoes and connections that Sun was hoping to create by bringing Afrofuturist artists together. “Hollaback to the Future represents the kind of call and response that is [present] throughout Pan-African culture,” he says. “From … the call and response between the preacher in the congregation to hip-hop or any sort of Black music.” 

Also in conversation with each other are Wilson’s cyberpunk mask and a pair of levitating roller sneakers — featuring booster rockets for propulsion — by local artist T-DUB Customs, aka Takiyah Ward.  Add the white Wolf Deluxe jacket covered in black ciphers (which calls back to Sneke One’s graffiti and Farrell’s portal) and the artistically distressed sneakers by Seattle designer Shu Jones (formerly at Reebok), and you have a futuristic wardrobe fit for interstellar travel.




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