Black to the future: Afrofuturism art exhibit comes to Greenpoint

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The future is now!

An annual book fair focused on antique volumes will also peek into the future next month. The sixth annual Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, returning to the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint on Sept. 7, will feature booksellers hawking first editions and rare novels, along with seminars and art exhibits, including one showcase titled “One Day You’ll See: A History of Afrofuturi­sm.”

The exhibit celebrates black characters in science-fiction and futuristic contexts, as featured in books, paintings, posters, music, comic books, and sculpture. The term “Afrofuturism” was coined in 1993 by art critic Mark Dery to refer to 20th Century literature that combines African-American characters and stories about technology, but one of the show’s thee curators rejects that definition as overly limiting.

“Afrofuturism is a membrane, it is sort of something that anybody who is of African descent can tap into. It is like a realm of dreams, hopes and fears,” said Brian Chidester.

The exhibition begins with a first edition of the 1920 book “Darkwater,” by W.E.B. Du Bois, which contains a short story about a black man who is one of the few people to survive a worldwide apocalypse. From there the eclectic exhibition includes more novels, images of sci-fi landscapes, and mass-produced entertainment, including comic books and music album covers. Each exhibitor focused on their own specialty.

“We picked the pieces based on our research and thinking about the subject matter, for me that was dealing with contemporary Afrofuturism, so I stuck with comics,” said Stacey Robinson, one of the three curators. Among the black superheroes in the exhibit will be Black Panther, who hails from a secret high-tech African society; strongman Luke Cage; and supernatural hero Brother Voodoo.

The curators are especially excited about a spaceship sculpture created by Kambel Smith, a contemporary artist from Philadelphia, inside of which will play a 17-minute video detailing his imaginary world. Other gems include original paintings and comic strips by Charles Williams, who invented his own black superheroes in the 1950s and ’60s, Stevie Wonder’s album “Innervisions” from 1973, which includes the song “Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away,” and Brooklynite N.K. Jemisin’s short story collection “How Long ‘til Black Future Month?”

The collection aims to educate visitors on the current state of black culture and where it comes from, Robinson said.

“The exhibit is a way of speculating about black art. There’s always elements inside Afrofuturism that examine the past, examine past political movements, while celebrating popular culture, but also speculate about the future based on the politics of the present,” he said.

Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair at the Brooklyn Expo Center (72 Noble St. at Franklin Street in Greenpoint, Sept. 7–8; Sat, noon–7 p.m.; Sun, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. $10–$15 ($5–$10 in advance).

Reach reporter Chandler Kidd at or by calling (718) 260–2525. Follow her at
Updated 1:34 pm, August 26, 2019
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