Masiyaleti Mbewe: “We should rather be talking about ‘pan-African futurism'”

I interviewed my friend and fellow writer of African speculative fiction Masiyaleti Mbewe for Perspectives magazine. Masiyaleti is a writer, activist and photographer based in Namibia. We talked about pan-African futurism as the future of our continent, queerness and Masiyaleti’s work which draws from her experiences living in various African countries.

Here’s a snippet of the interview;

Tell us more about your idea of “pan-African futurism”, or “post-Afrofuturism” as you have called it elsewhere.

Afrofuturism can be very one-dimensional. Globally, the African diaspora is having different experiences, even though we’re all black. There’s different places where we intersect, but there’s still marked differences.

Most of my travels have been around Africa and I’ve lived in various African countries, so, for me, it’s about pan-African futurism. It’s based on my experiences in these spaces, based on my exposure to the folklore and mythology of different African spaces and how they’ve affected my life.

But it goes further: for me, the aesthetics associated with Afrofuturism – black people in space, spacey landscapes – is not enough. In the future, when all of us have gone past whatever we’re going through right now, the colonial remnants and whatnot, there should be no concept of gender or race. All of these things should be dismantled.

Spacey stuff is cool, but I don’t have the budget to take photo shoots with that theme. But with my photography, I was able to show there’s queerness in the future, and that’s what I wanted to talk about the most. Afrofuturism is still very heteronormative, with the exception of a few people. Even if we talk about Black Panther, the patriarchy is there.

For me, a pan-African future is one where everyone is free and equal. The Africa we’re living now, for those of us who are black and queer, that’s just not happening.

You can read the entire thing here.

Make sure to check out other contributions in the issue examining the theme of African futures.


One of 100 African writers of SFF!

Rafeeat Aliyu was part of the main wave of African SFF from the beginning. Her story “Ofe” was in the first volume of the AfroSF series, published in 2013. Her story “4:15 Appointment” was in the first issue of Omenana, back in 2014. When I asked her what story she wanted to kick off her interview, she chose this.

Rafeeat: “I really liked writing it and a lot of people have liked reading it. Chinelo [Onwualu] reached out to me. I really like that she actively reaches out to women who write SF—so she reached out to three of us and she’s like, ‘You need to write something for Omenana, it’s coming out, you need to put something up.’ I was like, ‘Sure, let me try to come up with something.’

“I wasn’t working on any story before she asked, so there was a bit of time, about six months, that I had to sit down and come up with one, and it’s weird, the story came up from a dream. The first part of the story where there’s a woman giving a massage and her hand slips through the skin of the person she’s massaging, I had a dream about that, and had a chance to develop it.”

It seems so long ago now, when I sat down with Geoff Ryman to talk writing and African science fiction and fantasy. That interview is now available to read on Strange Horizons. I’m thrilling to be part of Geoff’s 100 African writers of SFF, an ambitious project that has taken him across the African continent interviewing writers like me. If you’d like to know more about my writing journey and what motivates me to write SF, read it!


My year in reading 2017

I’m not one for New Year resolutions but this year I set out to read a new book each week…and failed miserably. I only managed to read 35 books, most of which I enjoyed and a few which I absolutely hated. My reading lessons for 2017 are; don’t believe the hype (the books I had difficulty reading/enjoying were heavily publicised) and read more SFF (I know! Surprisingly or not the majority of the books I read this year were “literary” fiction then romance).

It was actually hard narrowing down the number of books I enjoyed to these five.

Simbi and the Satyr of the Dark Jungle by Amos Tutuola

Simbi and the Satyre of the Dark Jungle follows Simbi, a girl from a wealthy home who sets out on an adventure after all of her friends go missing. In the process, she encounters different creatures and people, learns magic and kicks their asses and eventually saves her friends. I am a huge fan of Amos Tutuola, I adore how he saw the wisdom in writing a story that is woman-centric and with complex women characters in 1954.

Two things stand out to me, the mention of Simbi’s beauty and the fact that she married in the forbidden forest. First the latter, in the classic hunter tales, the (male) hunters get married in the years they spend in the forest. In Simbi’s case, she married, had kids then she ~left~ her husband. This was a first for me and it was such fun to read. As for the former, there’s a whole scene with Simbi putting on makeup before her epic battle!

A Mistaken Marriage Match: Mysteries in the Imperial Harem by Qian Lu

In March, I ventured into reading fan translated works of Chinese authors. My friend Julie recommended the Mistaken Marriage Match series and I started with this. The series is about the three Qing sisters who are sent as tribute to Qiong Yue. Qing Feng, the middle sister and the heroine of this novel is slighty crazy and can’t stand the thought of being given as a gift so she convinces her sisters to commit suicide. Of all the three, she’s the only one that survives and remains herself, the other two become hosts to women who have travelled back in time from modern day China.

How cool is that? Already I’m a fan of anything set in the imperial harem so here I was less interested in the romance between Qing Feng and the Emperor Yang Hong Tian and more interested in the intrigues going on in the palace. As usual the Empress is the arch villainess but in this one, her assistant Shin Qing is way scarier. The side characters were very interesting; Xiao Yu and her love for tea plus her flirtations with Ming Ze’s brother, Ming Ze himself, (why does he hate his brother and how does he come to love Fu Ling?). I’m also interested in Chen Zhen’s back story.

The Poison of Love by K.R. Meera

This is my first book by K.R. Meera and she is already an inspiration to me. It’s the way she writes her characters and weaves darkness into her stories. She writes in Malayalam and I can’t help but imagine what I am losing by reading the translated versions. Still the language in the English translations is gorgeous.

The Poison of Love, Tulsi has been hurt by love but she’s going to get her revenge first even at the cost of her own sanity. The way K.R. Meera writes, you feel all of Tulsi’s emotions, from the way she fell in love with Madhav (you’d actually want her to elope with him) to when she was hurt by his love (which he gave out freely as though he was doing women a favour). I highlighted so many lines from the book. Bits like,“My body was full of poison. Love’s poison. I did not desire to die. I wanted to survive. To live on, like a horrendous, festering wound. Those who saw me ought to feel this pain. Like Madhav’s love, I too should corrode everything around me”; and; “I loathe every love story except my own.”

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Morena-Garcia

Wow this book! It’s about vampires in Mexico City…a city where vampires technically aren’t allowed to be in. The world-building is amazing, it’s set in the world as we know it but where vampires were “revealed” in the 60s. There are different species of vampires and our heroine Atl is an Aztec vampire. The story follows Atl’s attempt to escape a rival vampire gang (of Necros, European vampires) and her budding romance with a human boy Domingo, a homeless kid.

So this book is actually YA, which I’m tired of but I liked the world-building enough to overlook this. I loved loved the tension as the climax approached and I’m happy with the way it ended (even though I have several thoughts on Ana). Will there be a sequel?

Unforgivable Love by Sophfornia Scott

Imagine Cruel Intentions (or should I say Dangerous Liaisons) but set in Harlem in the 40s and with African-Americans. I enjoyed reading this even though I kept my fingers crossed hoping that the ending would be different from Dangerous Liaisons. I find the premise of the story very interesting as even in its original format, the male player is redeemed. On the other hand, the woman is exposed in front of everyone for the fraud she is.

The character I actually liked best was Cecily, her growth was lovely to watch. I’m not sure how I feel about the book’s chapter alternating between each character. At a point it felt too much, I mean there was Mae, Vale, Elizabeth and Cecily.

Other books I liked

  • The Nagano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami
  • Black Widow Society by Angela Makholwa
  • When I Hit You, Or A Portrait Of The Writer As A Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy
  • Unforgivable Love by Sophfornia Scott
  • Haven: Beards & Bondage by Rebekkah Weatherspoon
  • The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami