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Ekow Eshun on Afrofuturism, Black Speculative Thought, and In the Black Fantastic

Recorded on 02/13/2024
Posted in TIE Podcast

TIE Podcast · Ekow Eshun on Afrofuturism, Black Speculative Thought, and In the Black Fantastic
In the Black Fantastic book cover

Ekow Eshun, author of In the Black Fantastic, joins Toward Inclusive Excellence editor-in-chief Alexia Hudson-Ward to discuss the book’s development and how it acts as a mode of possibility for Black freedom and liberation. A companion piece to the 2022 art exhibition at London’s Hayward Gallery, In the Black Fantastic weaves together fables, myths, science fiction, and speculative fiction from throughout the African diaspora to explore Black culture and lived experiences. The title includes various creative disciplines—music, film, visual art, and more—that pull from African stories and knowledge systems to demonstrate the freedom of Black speculative thought and how it can inform the everyday.

In the conversation, Ekow describes Black speculative fiction and Afrofuturism as forms of resistance, highlighting the story of the Flying Africans and how it’s alluded to in contemporary works like Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Lemonade by Beyonce, and Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler. Further, Ekow explains how Black creatives occupying the traditionally exclusionary genres of science fiction and the supernatural bring forth non-Western forms of knowledge. Positioning identity as a fluid way of being, Ekow denounces reductive views of race and the binaries that have long restricted and reduced Black interiority. Amidst ongoing threats to DEI efforts, Ekow underscores the power of inclusivity demonstrated in his book and how it offers hope for the future in its multitudes of Black dreaming without disregarding past and continuing struggles for racial equality.

About the guest:

Ekow Eshun headshot
Photo by Zeinab Batchelor

Ekow Eshun is a writer and curator. He is Chairman of the Fourth Plinth, overseeing the foremost public art programme in the UK, and the former Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London. He is the curator of exhibitions including, most recently, In the Black Fantastic at the Hayward Gallery, London, for which he was awarded the Curatorial Prize 2023 by the Association for Art History, and author of books including Black Gold of the Sun, shortlisted for the Orwell prize, and Africa State of Mind, nominated for the Lucie Photo Book Prize.

Described by The Guardian as a ‘cultural polymath’, he is the writer and presenter of documentaries including the BBC film Dark Matter: A History of the Afrofuture, and the BBC Radio 4 series White Mischief. He has contributed to books on artists including Mark Bradford, Kehinde Wiley, Chris Ofili, John Akomfrah and Wangechi Mutu and his writing has appeared in publications including the New York Times, Financial Times, The Guardian and The Observer. He is a member of the Advisory Board of Liquid Blackness: Journal of Aesthetics and Black Studies and the recipient of an honorary doctorate from London Metropolitan University. 

Episode theme music: Black is the Night by Jeris (c) copyright 2014 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. Ft: DJ Vadim (djvadim), NiGiD

Watch the video recording of the interview:

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