Afrotopia comes to – and becomes – Detroit

Image Credit: Afrotopia Is

The very first annual Afrotopia Film Series  landed in Detroit this past weekend, begun by Detroit’s own Ingrid LaFleur.

It’s been awhile since I’ve smiled this wide.

The Afrotopia film series featured African American works of sci fi, fantasy, speculative fiction, Afrofuturism, and more, and I swore I would never see the day. And yet this day makes so much sense in so many ways because black lives in America are sci fi and what better place than Detroit to exemplify and crystallize the reality of black life in America. Science fiction deals so much with the perspectives of the other and the outsider, with the themes of not fitting in because refusing to and the existence of parallel universes and realities where one can witness and experience two radically different outcomes born in the same world in the same space and time and yet not …quite…


I wasn’t able to go for each and every day of the festival as I would have liked, but there’s always next year. And (hopefully, very hopefully) the year after that, and the year after, that, and so forth on into the Next Detroit. But the day I did manage to go and make the quick drive down to the Charles Wright Museum last Wednesday, it was a treat. The films showing that evening were:

Robots of Brixton by Kibwe Tavares (England)

Children of Nan by Alisha Wormsley (United States)

Last Angel of History directed by John Akomfrah (England)

There was also a very short flick in the beginning not more than a few minutes long featuring a mothership, and funkateer that I am (which the film claimed to have been partially inspired by) you know that one hit my soft, funky spot. “Robots in Brixton” was not only deep but timely with its underlying  theme of police brutality and the disenfranchisement of the ‘other’. From the RIBA President’s Medals Awards:

The projects shows Brixton as a degenerated and disregarded area inhabited by London’s new robot workforce. The robots are built and designed to carry out all of the tasks which humans are no longer inclined to do. The mechanical population of Brixton has rocketed, resulting in unplanned, cheap and quick additions to the skyline.

The film follows the trials and tribulations of young robots surviving at the sharp end of inner city life, living the predictable existence of a populous hemmed in by poverty, disillusionment and mass unemployment. When the Police invade the one space which the robots can call their own, the fierce and strained relationship between the two sides explodes into an outbreak of violence echoing that of 1981.

“Last Angel of History” wasn’t so much a sci fi flick as it was a documentary of black sci fi and afrofuturism featuring the likes of George Clinton, Sun Ra, and other children of the stars who dared to go there and somehow still made it back to let the rest of us know it was OK. The concept of the data thief was ingenious.

The creator of “Children of Nan” says it best herself”

The children of NAN” is a sci-fi mythology of civilization in which, 2000 years ago, dark skinned women (the abassi) ruled the earth. a code in creation was realized by a tribe of pale men (casmirans) who use the code to “inherit” the earth and dominate over the world.

Jump to one hundred years past present day: there has been an apocalyptical war and only the two groups, ‘descendants of the abassi’ (dark skinned women) and ‘casmirans’ (pale skinned men) survive. in constant war, both groups are unable to reproduce after the death of their mates. the casmirans capture an abassi woman and harvest her eggs to make experiments (mixed race females).

Seriously. You need to check these out for yourself.

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