Webvisions: The MARS ProjectTeaching Afro-Futurism as Methodology of Liberation

Friday, May 9th, 2014

D. Denenge Akpem

What is Afro-Futurism? It’s a creative theory, rooted in history and African cosmologies. Afro-Futurism uses pieces of the past, both technological and analog, to design the future. As an engaged creative practice, it moves people to consider different possibilities for themselves, their visual design, and their communities. Afro-Futurism rethinks and remixes concepts of identity, hybridity, states of alienation, and belonging. By creating interactive visual and performance art, we allow designers, students, and audience members to step outside of their daily confines, and into ‘remixed’ alternate environments.

My MARS Project focused on individual agency, asking: Who controls the future? My students were given the opportunity to be the ‘first Mars settlers’, and to create innovative, conceptual multi-media art works as portfolio pieces. Whether it was music, theory, design, or performance, Afro-Futurism allowed them to embrace what is different and otherworldly about themselves and their new world; it celebrated possibility. We will look at how the MARS Project was developed, and how students utilized Afro-Futurism to develop highly individual creative works, many outside of their majors or past areas of expertise.

Key Points:

  • Introduce key practitioners of Afro-Futurism including Sun Ra, Octavia Butler, and DJ Spooky
  • Introduce exercises and questions from the MARS Project application to delve into what it means to “colonize”
  • Explore the the world of Afro-Futurist music and art as launching point for new freedom in design practice
  • Utilize the conceptual frameworks and teaching methodologies to inform the act of building creative teams


  • Designing for space/people
  • Process vs product
  • Turning physical objects into interactive ones
  • View afro-futurism as an inclusive area of study for all peoples.
  • Deep sea, deep space.
  • It is the last truffula seed (Dr. Seuss as an honorary Afro-Futurist)
  • Super Black self
  • Sonic architecture
  • Parliament’s mothership
  • Music of Sun Ra
  • Who has the agency to control the future?
  • What do we value
  • Love the example for her class. Great work from the students!

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