Marvel has been churning out movies since 2008 with the release of Iron Man. But, Black Panther made a huge splash last year as the third highest grossing film in North American cinematic history, dethroning Titanic. Not only did its success blow minds at the box office, but Black Panther has re-energized a cultural movement – AfroFuturism.
It isn’t every day that we mention the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) in the halls of the SZ Gallery, but our next art installation runs with the same topical theme as Black Panther, and we couldn't be more excited. But first, what is AfroFuturism?
First coined in 1994 by writer Mark Dery, he pointed out the lack of black writers and black stories in science fiction. On a broad scale, AfroFuturism is a cultural movement within music, literature, and art that features futuristic or science fiction themes. Most often the future of art is seen through a white lens. In movies, for example, only 8% of all protagonists in the Sci-Fi movie genre are of color and half of those were Will Smith, which of course we all love and adore. Looking past all of that, at its most basic, AfroFuturism looks to overcome the current ways that society remains unequal, and in doing so there need to be futures where those problems are solved, that’s where AfroFuturism enters (Vox.com).
The SZ Gallery welcomes AfroFuturism and PICHA, our curatorial partner for this exhibit. PICHA, which means ‘Images’ in Swahili, was started by Mercer Island resident and Gabonese native, Josiane Foubert. PICHA began when Foubert noticed the lack of good African stock images available online. She saw an opportunity to recognize African countries that people rarely see but are commonplace to Africans.
PICHA photographers hail from such countries as Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa. AfroFuturism is the second exhibit Foubert has curated by the PICHA contributing photographers and the first in the United States; “this is a way to challenge the photographers, and move beyond what they're used to. I am also excited to feature photographers from Tanzania and Nigeria” states Faubert.
It seems, every new installation in the SZ Gallery takes on a life of its own, and this one is no exception. These pieces have been specially chosen and hung thoughtfully. But, some times we wonder if the gallery transcends through us, willing the art to come to it. The richness and depth that the printed photographic works display are so powerful, beyond belief, and almost other-worldly (which makes sense with the futuristic theme).
It’s a good chance you were one of the millions of people that saw Black Panther, which presented an excellent primer to understanding AfroFuturism - but it doesn’t stop there. Artists such as Beyonce, Janelle Monae, and Solange have moved the AfroFuturism needle. Experience the Mercer Island ‘launch’ of AfroFuturism for yourself, it will be up through the months April and May at the SZ Gallery.