The term afrofuturism was fathered by Mark Dery when he mentioned it in his essay, “Black to the future.” Mark Dery was trying to correct the lack of cultural diversity in science fiction and expand society’s perception of the future.
Fundamentals of Afrofuturism:
At its core afrofuturism is a movement that aims to celebrate black cultures, place black bodies at the center and strengthen black people’s sense of self. Another important element of afrofuturism is to expand the world of science fiction by introducing black narratives into the genre. Afrofuturism has entered the mainstream, with the splashiest display of afrofuturism being Marvel’s Black Panther. Other brilliant examples of afrofuturism include the works of Lina Iris Viktor, Solange’s A Seat at the Table, South African art collective Dear Ribane and the Pan-African feminist theater organization, Drama Queens. What all these artists share is their individuality; they’re all creating within the same ideology/ art movement but their interpretations vary.
Afrofuturism and advertising:
Many brands operating in Africa have grabbed this movement and have used elements of it to connect their brand to Africans. In certain instances, it has resulted in beautiful and thought-provoking work. But with the increasing interest in Africa, more and more of the communications that we’re seeing look the same and perpetuate the same cultural and social tropes. The visuals lack diversity by limiting Africaness to a dystopian future, populated by people with painted bodies, wearing masks and dancing. These communications are predictable and illustrate a rudimentary understanding of afrofuturism. In many ways these adverts are removed from everyday experiences of many Africans and often fail to depict the futures that most Africans aspire to. Marketers are using Western ideas of Africa to sell Africa to Africans. It could be for a number of reasons, probably a lack of research or the milking of a trend?
There’s little to no consideration of geography, language, history, the variety of cultures on this continent, social structures and the political climates of different countries. Goods and services are sold without consideration of how they’re going to live and be used in those different spaces. African marketers are turning Africa into a country through these “one size fits all” communications. By homogenizing Africa the people behind these communications erase people and spaces because they don’t fit into their “afrocentric” interpretation of Africa.
Branding is a powerful tool and with it, international and African brands can use it to drive conversation and position Africa in a better light. We as marketers have a lot of power when it comes to shaping perception and culture and to a certain extent morality and ethics. And when developing these communication strategies, we have to be responsible and progressive.
At HKLM we believe in developing strategies and creative communications that take into account the wants and needs of different communities; we believe that Africa is bright and full of opportunity, we want to celebrate its uniqueness and diversity. There are many ways to showcase Africaness, it doesn’t have to look the same.