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Posts Tagged ‘Essence Harden’

Afrofuturism: a movement in literature, music, art, etc., featuring futuristic or science fiction themes which incorporate elements of black history and culture.

What I missed most during Pandemic 2020 were museum visits. For me, museums are spaces where I can quietly learn something new, become inspired, and see the world from a different perspective.

The Oakland Museum of California offers all that and more with their reopening exhibit Mothership: Voyage Into Afrofuturism, on now through February 27, 2022.

Co-curated by OMCA Curator Rhonda Pagnozzi and Consulting Curator Essence Harden, Mothership explores various artists’ imaginings of the past, present, and future through an Afrofuturism lens.

Harden says, “As a strategy, Afrofuturism fosters an infinite course of actions.
Mothership offers not the whole but certainly an evocative and sincere gesture within the
multidimensional world that Afrofuturism dares to create.”

Mothership takes viewers on a journey into the many aspects of Afrofuturism and asks us to consider black lives as they were, are, and will be in the future. Organized into four sections – Dawn, Rebirth, Sonic Freedom, Earthseed – the exhibit mixes art, music, video, film, photographs, and literature featuring over 50 artists whose work has tapped into Afrofuturism. Science fiction author Octavia Butler, jazz musician Sun Ra, and artist Chelle Barbour are just a few of the renowned artists included.

You for Me, collage by Chelle Barbour.

Walking around the four sections, surrounded by otherworldly music (playlist by DJ Spooky) and images, is a total emersion in Afrofuturism. Earthseed, perhaps my favorite section, takes a look at “mundane” lives of black people through photographs, portraits, videos and something particularly touching – home movies of the Bean family. Filmed by Ernest Bean, a Pullman Porter, these images document an average black family in the 1930s and 1940s Oakland doing every day things such a gardening and dancing.

Exhibit wall quote: Mundane Afrofuturism honors ordinary vestiges of the past, rejoices in the pleasures that
can be found in the now, and cultivates Black spaces that foster well being. The Mundane
Afrofuturist Manifesto, 2013 by artist Martine Syms, was an important moment in Afrofuturist
thought. Underscoring ordinary, everyday Black life, Syms posed the question: Why do Black
people have to be superhuman to experience a safe and just human existence
?

Another display of artifacts that spoke to me was handwritten notes by author Octavia Butler. As a writer myself I was drawn to the lists and affirmations carefully printed, sometimes in colored ink. The mundane yet powerful actions of a writer, who wasn’t thinking at the time that notes to herself might speak to a writer in the future.

Octavia Butler’s notes. From the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.

Mothership: Voyage Into Afrofuturism is an original, thought-provoking exhibit that travels beyond the museum walls inside the minds of viewers as they continue to ponder what they’ve seen and experienced. Don’t miss it!

Please note that in light of the current pandemic, things are a bit different: The museum is open Friday-Sunday. Tickets are timed and purchasing in advance is recommended. Masks are required and distancing is encouraged. Click here for more information on how OMCA is working to keep us all safe.

One more thing – check out the museum’s new café, Town Fare, offering fresh vegetable-friendly food by Oakland chef, Tanya Holland. Grab something healthy and delicious and head outside to the lovely museum gardens.

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