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Meet the Afrofuturism Curatorial Council: Reynaldo Anderson

Afrofuturism—Carnegie Hall’s next citywide festival in February–March 2022—explores an ever-expansive aesthetic and practice where music, visual arts, science fiction, and technology intersect to imagine alternate realities and a liberated future viewed through the lens of Black cultures.

Reynaldo Anderson is one of the five leading Afrofuturism experts brought together to share their passion and knowledge in creating this visionary festival.

Dr. Anderson is an associate professor of Africology and African American Studies at Temple University; executive director and co-founder of the Black Speculative Arts Movement; and co-editor of the books Afrofuturism 2.0: The Rise of Astro-Blackness and The Black Speculative Arts Movement: Black Futurity, Art+Design.

Learn more about Anderson and his thoughts on the ever-expansive aesthetic and practice of Afrofuturism in the following Q&A.

What does Afrofuturism mean to you?

Afrofuturism is the high culture of the African diaspora and people on the African continent. It is how people of African descent locate themselves in time and operate with agency. You could say it’s defining history for ourselves, in terms of how we interact with other peoples, other cultures going forward into time—or re-contextualizing what happened in the past, in terms of understanding, how did we get to this particular place or historical moment.

What’s the place of music in Afrofuturism and who are the key artists?

I think Janelle Monáe is trying to fill that gap that used to be held by somebody like Sun Ra, in terms of the way she seems to be trying to bring together art, literature, performance, and identity to promote a certain way of being into the future. I’m kind of an old head and I tend to, out of nostalgia, listen to Sun Ra or Earth, Wind & Fire or Lonnie Liston Smith.

I love a lot of Detroit techno like Drexciya—an important techno group out of the 1990s that came up with a revolutionary idea of an underwater civilization where they are the descendants of babies that were thrown overseas during the European Transatlantic slave trade. They survived getting thrown overboard and established this underwater civilization. I go back and forth between the legacy performers from that era and then look at what some of the younger people are doing now like Yugen Blakrok, who has this kind of gothic futurism that I think is outstanding.

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