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I wonder what Martine Syms would say. She's a black American artist with a biting sense of humour and keen eye for unhelpful platitudes about race, about art, about Africa. Her Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto takes a very critical view of the kind of mystical, spiritual, techno mix that transforms a sense of otherness into the exotic alien, and turns the histories of colonialism and enslavement into fantastic tales of unknown and advanced societies under water, in outer space or - in the Black Panther movies - hidden in the heart of the continent. Martine Syms is bored with all of this.

We did not originate in the cosmos.

The connection between Middle Passage and space travel is tenuous at best.

Out of five hundred thirty-four space travelers, fourteen have been black. An all-black crew is unlikely.

Magic interstellar travel and/or the wondrous communication grid can lead to an illusion of outer space and cyberspace as egalitarian.

This dream of utopia can encourage us to forget that outer space will not save us from injustice and that cyberspace was prefigured upon a "master/slave" relationship. While we are often Othered, we are not aliens.

Though our ancestors were mutilated, we are not mutants.

Post-black is a misnomer.

Post-colonialism is too.

The most likely future is one in which we only have ourselves and this planet.

The first of her Mundane Afrofuturist rules:

1 No interstellar travel — travel is limited to within the solar system and is difficult, time consuming, and expensive.

2 No inexplicable end to racism — dismantling white supremacy would be complex, violent, and have global impact.

3 No aliens unless the connection is distant, difficult, tenuous, and expensive — and they have no interstellar travel either.

4 No internment camps for blacks, aliens, or black aliens. [this is a reference to District 9, a film set in South Africa and widely seen as a science fiction critique of apartheid]

5 No Martians, Venusians, etc.

6 No forgetting about political, racial, social, economic, and geographic struggles.

7 No alternative universes.

8 No revisionist history.

9 No magic or supernatural elements.

There is more. And reading this, I think she'd be OK with my reference to poverty.

Or am I still not seeing the art?


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