In 1976, a glowing silver spaceship landed on a stage in Houston to the sound of George Clinton and his musical ensemble Parliament-Funkadelic’s Mothership Connection. Since then, the mothership has develop into one the most iconic stage props in African American musical historical past—and a monument to Black tradition so highly effective that a reproduction of it was acquired by the Smithsonian’s Nationwide Museum of African American Historical past and Tradition in 2011.
This 12 months, one other reproduction has landed in the Oakland Museum of California—and its significance is equally momentous.
Named after the spaceship, Mothership: Voyage Into Afrofuturism is a new exhibition organized by OMCA curator Rhonda Pagnozzi and consulting curator Essence Harden, who pulled collectively an array of works by greater than 50 Black artists, historians, and musicians. Their work examines Afrofuturism and Black tradition.
Coined in the Nineteen Nineties by cultural critic Mark Dery, Afrofuturism has come to outline a cultural aesthetic, philosophy, and social motion that evaluates the previous and future to create higher situations for the current technology of Black individuals. Drawing on the a number of aspects of the motion, the multidisciplinary exhibition brings collectively artwork, music, literature, movie, and stage props to painting the world through a Black cultural lens.
Whereas celebrating a few of the Afrofuturism motion’s pioneers, together with creator Octavia E. Butler and avant-garde jazz musician Solar Ra, the exhibit additionally pays homage to modern creatives like Los Angeles filmmaker Kahlil Joseph. In the course of, it paints Afrofuturism as a technique for Black neighborhood constructing, through which each Black voice, from Black-owned companies to the Black Twitter neighborhood, is given a place to thrive. The exhibition comes a 12 months after a summer of racial reckoning in the U.S., and presents a new manner of framing a world that has lengthy been seen through a white lens.
“One in every of the most fascinating components about Afrofuturism is how tough it’s for individuals to explain,” Pagnozzi says. “It’s about time journey but additionally about severe themes and slavery, and trauma, and the legacy of this nation. There may be at all times severe commentary beneath the fantasy.”
The thought behind Mothership was born in 2019, however shelter-in-place measures in California delayed the exhibition by greater than a 12 months. That delay was punctuated by Black Lives Matter protests, a nationwide racial reckoning, and a pandemic that introduced social and racial injustices to the forefront of public well being. “The factor with racial injustice and anti-Blackness is that it’s occurred earlier than this time and it’s possible going to occur after this time,” Harden says. “What Afrofuturism is making an attempt is to break down time in order that the previous and the future are very a lot about the current.”
The notion of collapsed time is clear all through the exhibition, which is organized into 4 sections. The primary, titled “Daybreak,” opens with an immersive, planetarium-like mural by Bay Space artist Sydney Caine coupled with an authentic soundscape composed by jazz flutist Nicole Mitchell. The music offers an expertise akin to time journey, “and does a nice job at collapsing house and time in an ethereal manner,” Pagnozzi says.
Along with Caine’s mural, the music additionally kicks off the exhibition on a joyful word. “Establishments which can be inherently constructed on white supremacy will usually begin a story about Black tradition with struggling and slavery, and that’s a horrible, incorrect method to discuss diaspora as a result of it doesn’t begin there,” Pagnozzi explains. As a substitute, the expertise begins with the artwork mural and soundscape, each of that are impressed by American science fiction creator Octavia E. Butler— a central determine in the present.
From then, the second part, “Rebirth,” delves into Afro-surrealism—an artwork motion that focuses on what is going on in the current second. From Chelle Barbour’s The Bluest Eye, which reimagines the physique of a Black feminine through the lens of Afro-surrealism, to Kenyan American artist Wangechi Mutu’s Misguided Little Unforgivable Hierarchies, this a part of the exhibition highlights artworks that confront anti-Black racism by presenting Black-centered visions of magnificence.
The following part, “Sonic Freedom,” focuses on world-building and celebration. That is the place a reproduction of P-Funk’s Mothership might be skilled in sync with a 165-song playlist curated by DJ Spooky, who explores the plethora of music genres that Afrofuturism falls into, together with jazz, funk, hip-hop, and classical. In the similar house, guests can uncover pictures and movies from the 1972 science fiction movie Area Is the Place, written by Afrofuturism pioneer Solar Ra, in addition to Ruth E. Carter’s Dora Milaje warrior costume from the widespread 2018 movie Black Panther.
The ultimate part, “Earthseed,” pulls guests again to the current. The curatorial group labored with the East Oakland Black Cultural Zone Collaborative—a partnership of greater than 20 native nonprofits—to create useful resource posters that encourage guests to help Black-owned companies and artist areas in Oakland. “A lot of [Afrofuturism] is fantastical however as a counterpoint we wished to spotlight the mundane the place Black individuals stay and love and create,” Pagnozzi says.
A multisensory ode to Black voices, the present speaks to the breadth of Afrofuturism’s functions. “Afrofuturism is bombastic, loud, playful, and there’s a actual emphasis upon Black freedom and liberation,” Harden explains. However in the end, the motion offers a “visible panorama” for individuals to think about themselves in. “To some extent, I can consider my grandmother as an Afrofuturist, a one that moved all through the U.S. and determined to floor herself in Berkeley,” Harden provides. “I hope that we might consider cityscapes as once-chocolate cities that pioneered Afrofuturism—areas that Black individuals believed in and made a life in.”
Mothership is on view till February 27, 2022. For tickets, extra info, and particulars about the museum’s COVID-19 security precautions, go to museumca.org.