The year is 2043, what you used to know as Africa the continent is now Africa the country – a modern utopia where what you think is impossible right now is possible. A time where your mobile is now part of your biology and ingrained into your body.
That’s right, you read correct. Your mobile now monitors your heart rate, banking, social media, taxes, location and your emotions too. Right now you’re asking yourself “What in the world is Afrofuturism?!”
According to writer Jamie Broadnax, Afrofuturism can be described as:
“the reimagining of a future filled with arts, science and technology seen through a black lens.”
The term was conceived a quarter-century ago by author Mark Dery in his essay “Black to the Future,” which looks at speculative fiction within the African diaspora.
The aim of Afrofuturism is to envision a different Africa with empowered African people moving away from Western beliefs. This involves a culmination of science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction merging with African traditions, culture and beliefs to create a world in which Africans thrive.
A great example of the application of Afrofuturism is Marvel’s 2018 blockbuster Black Panther. The futuristic fictional African country with a different history from the rest of the world was still relatable because not only do they speak real African languages but wear real African regalia too.
Applying Afrofuturism To The World Of Advertising
We create stories that connect consumers to the brand but we are also responsible for how those brands make people feel. The key word is empowerment, empowerment, empowerment! If a brand helps a woman feel more beautiful, that brand empowers that person. Afrofuturism does the same thing for all Africans. We take charge of our own narrative; not the one history has written for us but one where we decide what the future looks like.
Here are a few brands that have taken advantage of this opportunity and executed brilliantly in my opinion:
I must admit when Absa rebranded, the term Africanacity was hard to run from. It was everywhere – TV, radio, billboards, digital and on social media. Africanacity became a buzzword and people wanted to know what it means. Absa received a lot of criticism for their new logo because it looks exactly like another brand (not gonna mention any names). Even Nandos did a parody of their TVC to get in on the conversation because Africanacity was everywhere!
The focus of this new direction was simple: a focus on Africans finding a way to get things done. If you watch the TVC you’ll realise the people in the ad are all solving some sort of problem by colouring outside the lines and doing what they need to. For instance, there’s a young man charging his phone with kinetic energy while riding his bike. Take a look.
Absolut Vodka: One Source Live
The thinking behind One Source Live is that Africa is the source of all humanity and therefore the source of creativity. The use of science fiction, technology and historical fiction is evident in this campaign and that’s what makes it so powerful: you see Africa in a different light when it comes to creativity.
Black Label Milk Stout: #GetItBack
Honestly, I think this campaign could have been executed better however it speaks to a real human truth: because of globalization and westernization we seem to have lost our way. We have to go back to our roots and remember what it means to be African. We need to #GetItBack.
Axe: Party Of The Year with Black Coffee
Africa is the future! Wise words coming from an African DJ who has gained international success by entertaining the world through African music. Who would’ve thought? Which is why when we set out to take African music to the world, he was the guy we partnered with. Dankie Black Coffee!
— BET Africa (@BET_Africa) July 6, 2018
Don’t be mistaken in thinking Afrofuturism is coming…some time. It starts now! This interview about the Party of the Year is a great example of what it means to live Afrofuturism in the present.
The Afrofuturism movement is also being propelled forward within the rest of Africa. A special shout out goes to Kenyan photographer & artist, Osborne Macharia, who created Ilgelunot (‘The Chosen Ones’ in Maasai), a story about three blind elders who possess alien powers and use them to usher in the heroes of the future. This was a collaboration for the premier of Black Panther in London.
Mark Kamau, head of user experience for BRCK, a Nairobi-based tech company had this to say:
“Afrofuturism in design, and in general, is about aspiration for excellence, aspiration for intelligent engagement with our continent, for the purpose of overcoming our own challenges. It is people in these African contexts saying: Why do we have to wait for somebody to do it for us?”
The answer is, we don’t! Now is the time for Africa to flex our creative muscles and move forward.
See you in 2043!