Some time ago, in a younger life that seems far, far away, I decided I wanted to write. I was going to write speculative fiction, like the sci-fi and fantasy books I’d spent so much of my younger life reading. I was going to be a PoC writing awesome speculative fiction that no one had seen before, away from the run-of-the mill elves, dwarves and what-not. And the very novelty of my work would gain accolades and applause.
Much of the mental imagery we conjure of the non-Western world in the past century come from endless photos–often of varied peoples in fantastic headdress, wrapped in “exotic” clothing and striking regal poses. For artists, creators and those looking for “authenticity” or understandings of cultures and peoples seemingly “lost in time,” these images are invaluable. But how authentic are such glimpses of the past? Especially when constructed through a colonial lens? Can photos…lie?
“Our personal history is often rooted in the identity of our families and what the writers of history, often the usurpers, choose to depict as historical fact. I try to reveal the distinct possibilities of these often conflicting allegories with imagery depicting the contradictions in historical fact, the omissions in historical academia, and the narrative of the imagination of the hope of ones place in history.”–artist S. Ross Browne
You know what’s great about posting videos to your blog? Very little writing. Following my previous piece deriding uninformed claims that Hip Hop and speculative fiction are somehow averse to each other, I thought it might be good to post some examples showing the best blending of my two favorite artistic expressions–especially those that pull from classic speculative fiction tropes. In this mash up, one of the most phenomenal duos to ever grace the mic and turntables, Gang Starr, meets pre-Star Wars icon George Lucas’s first major film, THX 1138.
More alternate history and power reversals (for reasons I’m at pains to explain, I seem to be on this kick lately), this time from the fashionistas at Diesel. Created by L’Oreal advertising agency in 2001 for the overpriced famous denim company, the ad gained attention at the time for its provocative photos featuring the front page of a fictional newspaper, The Daily African. “Birthrate Booms in Italy and Spain,” one of them reads, “Europe Set Back Even Further;” the sub-headline continues: “With an average of 8.7 children born to every Italian woman and an annual GNP per capita below AFRO 45, there is a high risk of looming tragedy in southern Europe.” Another headline reads, “African hostages free after being held 148 days by Californian rebels,” while yet another proclaims “AU (African Union) agrees on financial aid to Europe.” Each daily is superimposed in white print against the backdrop of photos featuring African models, finely dressed (or in states of near undress) in various modes of play, lavishly indulging in decadent lifestyles of excess, while a poverty-stricken, politically unstable Third World Europe struggles to survive. Didactic enough for you?
I first saw the work of artist Kehinde Wiley at the Brooklyn Museum. It’s still there. You walk in, and on the left wall is an immense mural of a figure that looks somewhat like Tony Starks (Ghostface, not Downey Jr.), on horseback crossing the alps–a reworking of Jacques-Louis David’s 1800 oil-painting, Napoleon Crossing the Alps or Bonaparte at the St Bernard Pass.