neema

On Afropresentism 

(Originally Published via The.Kraal, March 2020)

What is Afropresentism? Where did the term originate?

Afropresentism as a term originated in a conversation I had with Ghanaian curator Nana-Osei Kwadwo in Accra in 2017, in which he said "Africa is not the future, it is the Present." We were there together as part of a Tastemakers Africa trip for Chale Wote—the largest street art fair in West Africa—immersed in the unmistakeable Afropresentist energy of that gathering. The earliest definition I put together for Afropresentism was "a genre-fusing archival, documentary, and fine arts on and through new media in the expression of an Afrofuturist lived reality.”

In the years since then, my conceptualization of Afropresentism has evolved into something more amorphous—more encrypted one could say. It is a concept that is at once an aesthetic, and a verb. It is textured, vibrant, unapologetically ephemeral and simultaneously timeless. 

Afropresentism is you channeling your ancestry through every technology at your disposal—meditation, conversation, love, the internet —and turning absolutely everything into a Portal that takes you precisely where you need to be, in this moment, towards the next. Until finally, the space between the dream and the memory collapses into being your reality—now. 

What is the difference between Afropresentism and Afrofuturism? 

I think of Afrofuturism as the mothership vision from which Afropresentism was born. It is the teaching-genre that made the future possible for us today. And at the same time, I feel like Afropresentism is distinct in that it does not situate the future as a place of escapist utopia; rather, it aims to claim space boldly and unapologetically in the Present. 

Afrofuturism has been evoked to refer at length to the infusion of technological advances and experimentations within Black cultural production. I present Afropresentism as a distinguishing genre, less about what might have happened, or could happen; and instead, an embodiment of what did happen, what is happening. 

Afropresentism says - We are the Black people living in our ancestors’ future. What are we doing with that? How are we activating the past, to put the present in motion, towards the future? As a mode of BEING in the world, in this moment. 

If your great great great grandmother had an Instagram, what would you want to get to know about her through it?

I would want to see who and what she loved. I would like to see her face, her words, how they changed over time. The details of daily life that brought her joy. The ways she evolved and the things that were difficult for her to process. I ask myself this question here because I find myself constantly needing to re-contextualize what I do online. To remember that what I share is a technofossil (à la John Akomfrah), of which fragments will make it into the hands and airdrives of generations to come. To me, Presentism is the process of this recontextualization. 

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