What Does It Mean to Create Afrofuturistic Art?

Installation view, Sedrick Chisom, Twenty Thousand Years of Fire and Snow, Pilar Corrias Eastcastle Street (all images courtesy the artist and Pilar Corrias, London, all photos by Mark Blower)

LONDON — What is curious about the works featured in New York-based artist Sedrick Chisom’s first UK solo show Twenty Thousand Years of Fire and Snow, at Pilar Corrias, is that while they are described as “sitting within the Afrofuturistic tradition,” there are no Black people present in them. This is not a criticism. It is an observation that provides an opportunity to consider what it means to create Afrofuturistic art — i.e., work that envisages futures from Black perspectives, and most commonly, imagines the lives of Black people in those futures — that does not require the presence of Black people.

In this particular apocalyptic future that Chisom so vividly builds, all people of color have left Earth. The remaining inhabitants are succumbing to a disease that affects skin pigmentation, and a contingent fortunate enough to be getting sick more slowly are attempting to assert dominance over a so-called “monstrous” race whom the pestilence has already ravaged and transformed entirely.

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