“Thinking of blackness, who we are as a people, and where we need to go”: Audio-visual producer Morena Mariah explains how Afro-futurism is an option to reach new perspectives



Note from BW of Brazil: Can we imagine a different future for the global black population? One in which that is not connected to struggles against oppression, always having the necessity of proving that we are as good as any other groups of people and where others don’t confine us to a small of stereotypes that define our very existence? Because our past and even present has been generally written by people whose stated goals were to maintain Africa and its people in the lowest realm of the imagination whenever one, no matter where he or she lives, simply hears the name of this continent. Afrofuturism is movement in which black artists are seeing the future in an endless flow of possibilities not confined by the restrictions of which we have been shackled for the past five centuries plus. We saw a small glimpse into these possibilities with the release of the blockbuster film Black Panther (released as Pantera Negra in Brazil). But the reality is that Panther is simply the tip of iceberg of the possibilities especially when we consider that the movement is reaching a global audience. Rio-based audio-visual producer Morena Mariah sees how the concept can be a catalyst that sparks an entirely new future. In the piece below, Mariah expands on her vision. 

Morena Mariah and Afro-futurism as an option to reach new perspectives


From her experience in audiovisual and research accumulations, the student intends to take the concept of a better and possible future for blacks and moradores de favelas (slum dwellers).

Have you heard of afrofuturismo (Afro-Futurism)? The term was coined for the first time in the 1990s, but the concept existed well before that. Formerly associated with dystopian aesthetics, Afro-futurism is now in the favelas and in the streets, setting a new possibility for the future for pessoas negras (black people) who escape from stereotypes and violence. And if it depends on Morena Mariah, 27, the concept will be increasingly expanded, widespread and especially useful for a new future. An audiovisual producer, a student of the Media Studies course at the Federal University of Fluminense (UFF) in Rio and hacker of technologies in favor of social causes, she explains that her main interest is “to know the past to have a reference in the future.”

The accumulation of the readings on the subject came from the time when, alone, she sought new political and social references, beyond those presented in already known social movements, such as feminism. In this report, she explains that Afro-futurism, being a new concept, still has its definition in dispute.

“Afro-futurism is a vision of the world: seeing yourself as povo negro (black people) and understanding the state of affairs in which you are inserted and how they got here. “

“It’s is a vision of the world: seeing yourself as povo negro (black people) and understanding the state of affairs in which you are inserted and how they got here.”

“The afro-futurism that I claim, which has a great power, is not only a political, philosophical, cultural vision, an aesthetic or artistic movement, but it is a worldview: seeing yourself as povo negro (black people) and understanding the state of affairs in which you are inserted and how they got here. That is, to know the past and how it brought us to the moment in which we are,” she explains in an interview.

To explain the “moment in which we are,” she cites what she calls neoescravidão (neo-slavery): mass incarceration, genocídio do povo negro (genocide of the black people). The Afro-futurism defended by Morena, then, takes consciousness of this violence and, from there, thinks of actions to change the future that is set – that, if it does not change, will continue the perpetuation of these pains. For a long time the movement has been associated with a merely aesthetic character, but the student explains that it’s not only this: “For me it goes beyond the aesthetic and artistic, and can be extended to a way of being in the world and really thinking of blackness, in who we are as a people, and where we need to go.”

To disseminate more and more the content and accumulated knowledge on the subject, Morena coordinates the project “Afrofuturo” (Afro future), which today consists of texts and soon will have a channel on YouTube, with the intention of getting closer to the young people and what they consume and believe. If the youth is the future, then it is for them that one must speak. Morena is also the pedagogical coordinator of GatoMÍDIA, a technology learning space in the Complexo do Alemão neighborhood of Rio. Recently, the group finished the first  laboratório afrofuturista (Afro-Futurist laboratory) with young favela inhabitants in the city.

“If Afro-futurism accelerates some processes of discussion and reflection on negritude, this discussion has to reach the favela. We developed the laboratory to work with a 360º narrative with the people of the favela,” she explains. The idea was to make those present in the laboratory construct videos and narratives different from the stereotypes of violence addressed in the traditional media and thus recount the story (their own and that of black people) in a different way, also from this aesthetic.

“The concept can be extended to a way of being in the world and thinking of blackness. “

Morena believes that the main power of the movement is exactly the dialogue with all. “I think it’s a intersection of worldviews that has a power to reach people who don’t dialogue with formal knowledge. Reach the 15 year old crowd in the favela and that listen to the funk podcast. They are super-tuned in, but within that space and those groups that like the same thing. The path is to broaden the concept for everyone who is black and wants to think future, regardless of what he hears and thinks as art,” she says.

With a serious voice, besides always low, Morena carries in the firm gaze a particular brightness of one who believe that a better future is possible. This certainty was not constructed quickly. In childhood, she suffered sexual abuse and for a long time did not recognize what she experienced as violence, “because of all this process of machismo that is invisible to us when we don’t have access to the discussions.” In recent years, however, she has managed to advance in healing this episode.

“Therapy helps me a lot. Allowing me as a human to treat it, as I experienced it, makes all the difference. The readings collaborate in this process, because I think we understand the context of destruction, not only of the process of slavery that has happened but how these forms of death and racism are updated at all times, is important. Racism looks like a monster of many faces,” she evaluates.

“If Afrofuturism accelerates some processes of discussion and reflection on negritude, this discussion has to reach the favela.”

It was a feminist meeting that helped Morena understand her experience, but over time she didn’t feel more involved in the struggles because “the guidelines about racism are always treated as identity, as a perspective.” That wasn’t sufficient. After breaking with feminism, the young woman approached the studies of African authors. There, she realized that having the customs of the continent as a reference is the best way possible for the healing and for understanding of the society in which we live. Along with the therapy, it allowed her to understand what had happened and not to blame herself for having been a victim.

The process of understanding that she experienced, sharing with her family – especially with her mother – and redeeming a union from this was not instantaneous, but always anchored in the values ​​in which she believes. In her speech, Morena emphasizes the importance of building a healthy family for the povo negro, aiming for, of course, the future.

“Family is a quilombo first, so it is the first place where people understand what the world is. I think that understanding the lack of affection and the importance of love, of affection in our trajectory, is important. It is to understand that at some point love saved us from something, and that we can and should think about our families. We are not given this right to construct affection collectively, so we have to stop and really think: how has my family’s process been so far and what can I do to help in the change?”, provokes the student.

“Racism looks like a monster of many faces. “

Criticisms of afro-futurism and new perspectives for the future are recurring, but Morena is not surprised. “They say that we believe in a ‘África mítica’ (mythical Africa), that it is impossible to relate to black people, but if that is impossible, what is possible? If it is not that way, let’s find another, but we have to rethink the future,” she says.

Whatever it is, what Morena does not intend is to re-associate Afrofuturism with only dystopia. “I don’t dispute dystopia because I think that we are already living a genocide, it’s invisible, it already lives in a state of exception and without rights: this is already ser preto e favelado (being black and a favela resident) in Brazil, but that whites still see as dystopia. We need to “distopy” the future, what kind of utopia is interesting for us? Because there’s already a lot of misfortune”, she states.

“We are not given this right to construct affection collectively. “

The violence that affects the black people must stop, but as long as it continues, the resistance of movements like Afro-futurism and people like Morena will keep on. “The posture of resistance that we have to have is this. The way we resist is to understand our place, produce the narratives and not stop. Because what is given in this system in which we exist is to stop, die and not speak,” she concludes.

Source: Huff Post Brasil

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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