This weekend I hit the streets of Accra to immerse myself in the explosion of creativity that is the annual Chale Wote Street Art Festival. The festival has been held every year since 2011 and is essentially an arts workshop that turns an entire street in Jamestown, Accra into an open-ended canvas for artists of all types to leave their mark on the city. And for a couple of days each year, that winding stretch of urban terrain truly feels as if it’s been reclaimed by “the people.”

This time I took the opportunity to do a bit of photojournalism and tried to capture some of the most interesting scenes I encountered. The quality and diversity of the art seems to keep getting better each year, and the vibe is always spontaneous and chilled out. It’s definitely one of the best ways to spend a Saturday afternoon in Accra. The Chale Wote Street Art Festival is organized by Accra [dot] Alt. You can find a lot more photos on their site, or simply by googling ‘Chale Wote.’

All of these photos were taken on a Nokia Lumia 520, which isn’t spectacular but still manages a decent job.

I’ve followed the Accra Theatre Workshop group via social media since it first began two years ago but had yet to attend any of their programs, like the annual “Summer Shakespeare” or their more recent “An African Walks into a Psychiatrists Office” which actually featured an adapted performance of my Virus short story. And so last Wednesday I arrived at the Alliance Francaise institute in Accra to witness the preview of their new experimental dance performance with reasonably high expectations. I was simply blown away.

This description of the performance is taken from the Accra Theatre Workshop blog:

In the piece, Little Warrior, our protagonist, has to navigate four worlds that hang in the balance between sleep and waking. The preview taking place on Wednesday 25th June 2014 will take the audience through two of those worlds, exploring concepts of afrofuturism and identity through movement, sound, and spectacle.

The first world, Dreamscape, is an expression of modern escapism and a criticism of the established order which accepts wholesale the social constructs impressed on us. This world is anchored in dance, and in ritualized movement.

The second world, Monsters, is a visceral study in the human reaction to fear, and a deconstruction of the term “fight or flight”. This world employs puppets and stage combat.

Overall, these two worlds serve as a commentary on how we as human beings can allow situations, internal or external, to hold us back from our full potential.

Dreamscape was an energetic, mesmerizing rollercoaster ride across an imaginary soundscape, with a score encompassing genres from trip hop to house and even hardcore dubstep. The narrative was ingeniously worked into the dancer’s movements, and although some aspects were not entirely comprehensible (at least, to a layman like myself), the overarching theme of the story was well presented and powerfully conveyed.

This performance boldly pushes the boundaries of the Ghanaian theatre scene and speaks volumes about the talent and vision of the creator Elisabeth Efua Sutherland and director Emelia Asiedu. If you happen to find yourself in Accra during the month of November, you might want to get yourself a ticket to the full performance of Dreamscape, which will undoubtedly be an incredible experience. And you can be sure to find me there (in the back row, bobbing my head when the bassline drops).

“Our dependence must evolve into independence. Oil has ruined us, smeared our Deltas with smog, poisoned our creeks and marshes, lined the pockets of the few. For us to leap, we must find another source, clean of the blood of our ancestors. It is not more oil that we need. Not gold, not diamonds. We can’t swap blood for blood. What we need are minds.”

— Nurudeen Bello, Special Adjunct to the Minister of the Environment

Deji Bryce Olukotun’s debut novel has all the makings of a classic international spy thriller and takes the reader on an action-packed adventure spanning three continents and twenty years of history. At the heart of the story is Wale Olufunmi’s lifelong dream of becoming an astronaut, an unlikely aspiration for a Nigerian technician working a dead-end job in a NASA laboratory. This dream is altogether given a new lease when he is contacted by the mysterious Nurudeen Bello, the silver-tongued politician behind “Brain Gain,” a top-secret project to create a Nigerian space program by harnessing the talents of their best and brightest compatriots around the world.

However, this grand dream inevitably collides with the stark realities of corruption at the heart of African politics, leaving a trail of dead bodies where good intentions dared to tread, and transforming Wale from a law-abiding immigrant into an international fugitive. At once inspiring and heartbreaking, the unfolding plot of “Nigerians in Space” paints a complex picture of an epic struggle between hopeful idealism and the forces of darkness on a continent grappling with a long-running leadership crisis.

The story simultaneously delves into the life of Thursday Malaysius, an abalone smuggler in  South Africa struggling to appease his manipulative best friend Leon while avoiding the scrutiny of police and the wrath of ruthless Chinese gangsters. Also intertwined in this layered narrative is the story of Melissa Tebogo, the daughter of a South African freedom-fighter living in Zimbabwe with a skin condition known as vitiligo. In her desperation for a cure, she unwittingly finds herself at the mercy of a network of conspirators who will stop at nothing to protect their political interests.

Deji’s writing is very clear and conscise, but also waxes lyrical at times. One fine example of this sees Wale envisioning the culimination of his dreams in particularly exquisite prose:

He wouldn’t hit golf balls like the American astronauts. He would squeeze out rhythms from a talking drum into the blackness between the stars. These were the drums of war and death, of celebration, the drums that had bonded the towns of his homeland over centuries in tonal communication… He would bind the stars with the drums. There would be dancing.

Such beautifully rendered visions of a possible future are what most captured my imagination while reading this book and kept me hoping against all hope as Bello’s elaborate house of cards began tumbling down. I was slightly let down by the ending of the story not for lack of action or intrigue, but because the eventual joining of the two mostly distinct subplots felt somewhat contrived, from my point of view. But overall, reading this book was a captivating experience which kept me hooked from the first few pages all the way to the end.

I would definitely recommend ‘Nigerians in Space’ to anyone with an interest in afrofuturist literature or mystery novels in general. It deals superbly with the nature of the idealists who harbor grand visions of Africa’s future and the dangers that often lie along the path to their realization. Perhaps, the fact that the story opens in 1993 on the verge of South Africa’s liberation is meant to symbolize the notion that positive change in the face of entrenched injustice might not seem very likely at first, but ultimately has the force of history on its side. This is only my take on one possible message underlying this story, and I encourage you to read the book and decide for yourself.

You can find more reviews and information about Nigerians in Space’ on Amazon.

Cover artwork obtained from the publisher’s website.

After an exceptionally long break, I’m glad to announce that the AfroCyberPunk blog is finally back in session with a totally brand new and exciting mission! When I published my very first post on the AfroCyberPunk blog some four years ago, my intention was to add a new perspective to the existing discussion on African science fiction at the time, by highlighting the relevance of cyberpunk themes in the reality of everyday life in Africa. I had just started writing my own cyberpunk novel around then and was beginning to notice the parallels between the Gibson-esque high-tech dystopian setting and the Africa in which I lived; the uneven patchwork of technological advancement permeating the entire spectrum of society; the booming industry of cyber-crime and its assimilation of traditional African mythology; the rapidly expanding gap between obscene wealth and abject poverty, symbolized by jarring contrasts such as multi-million-dollar high-rise apartments towering above oceans of shantytowns.

This sort of imagery is what first inspired me to publish this blog, however, my main interest has always been to explore the underlying factors driving these rapid changes in Africa, and to imagine what effects they are likely to have in the near and distant future. And so I’ve decided to expand the focus of this blog beyond science fiction and cyberpunk exclusively to a much broader discussion of African futurism. This may include but isn’t limited to areas like arts, culture, technology, fashion, music, design and innovation, business and commmerce, etc. The goal is to incorporate and examine past and contemporary representations of Afrofuturism and use these as the basis for a critical dialogue about the future of Africa.

To quote the newly updated About page, “the AfroCyberPunk blog is dedicated to exploring the future of Africa in every way possible; by examining artistic expressions of Afrofuturism in science and speculative fiction across various forms of media, relevant news and current events about ongoing socioeconomic, political, and technological developments, as well as academic discourses on issues and trends concerning the future of this incredibly diverse continent. As Africa enters a new era of accelerated development, this blog aims to create a unique conceptual space in which to explore the various scenarios we are likely to encounter in the near and distant future, and to imagine how we might begin to address the enormous challenges and incredible opportunities that may soon become reality.”

I’m really excited to finally begin this new journey for the blog, which has actually been on my mind for about a year now. There were a number of reasons for the slump in activity over this period, but most of all I had to concentrate on successfully completing my applied project dissertation, which was an incredibly exhausting(!!!) but equally fulfilling experience which has resulted in the beginning of an exciting new venture into social entrepreneurship. I’ll go into more detail on this in later posts, as it’s quite relevant to the new focus on futurism. From now onwards, I should have enough time to concentrate my full attention on the blog and the completion of my (still-in-progress) novel, unless of course some horrendously improbable fate should happen to befall me, like an X-Files-style extra-terrestrial cattle rustling and abduction scenario, or a freak bedroom accident involving a time-traveling Boeing jet engine (and a creepy dude in a bunny suit), or worse – procrastination. But let’s look on the bright side, shall we?

It’s only right that I take this opportunity to thank everyone who has played a part in spreading the word about AfroCyberPunk and supporting my efforts over the years. The blog could not have survived this long without the championing efforts of Johnny Laird and Cheryl Morgan, the timely promotion on Lavie Tidhar’s World SF Blog, the encouragement I received from veteran African SF authors like Ivor Hartmann and Nnedi Okorafor, the much-appreciated recogition from Bruce Sterling and exposure from Warren Ellis, my participation in the BBC radio documentary on African SF thanks to the show’s producer, Deborah Basckin, my continued support in hosting from a kind philanthropist who wishes to remain unnamed, the positive and critical feedback from readers, and all those who have published my work and referenced my ideas in articles, papers, and presentations, and many others who I cannot mention now but will do my best to acknowledge in due time.

So what next, you ask?  In my next post, we’ll immediately dive right into this Afrofuturism business with a review of a new novel called ‘Nigerians in Space,’ a mystery/thriller novel by Nigerian writer Deji Olukotun. Afterwards, we might discuss some of the very interesting and highly relevant projects which I’m currently involved in, with the aim of connecting the dots between technological innovation,  social entrepreneurship and their long-term implications for the continent. And finally, we’ll scan the surrounding star-systems for gravitational readings, plot our trajectory into the navigator, and floor the throttle of the hyperspace drive as we blast off into the farthest reaches of space and time on this epic journey into the future of Africa.

Cover image obtained & modified from:

I just came across this remarkable African Sci-fi short film called ‘The Day They Came.’ It’s a zero budget 4-minute-long piece which follows a young Nigerian man who strolls outside his house on a calm Sunday morning only to witness the start of an alien invasion à la War of the Worlds. This is apparently the first of a series, and I’m excited to see the upcoming releases. I find particularly fascinating the film’s subversion of the traditional alien encounter set in London or New York and, as in the movie District 9 (2009), relocation to the more familiar geography of a contemporary African city. This short film represents yet another example of the effectiveness of science fiction as a narrative instrument for the next generation of African artists.

Check out the film:

I just ca

This task required us to program a robot to use a wavefront path planning algorithm to navigate a map with obstacles.