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!