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).

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: http://www.sanguinesoul.com/2010/03/episode-51-daft-in-africa-ft-proof-and-freddy-anzures/

As the dawn of 2013 marks the beginning of another revolution of our planet around the sun, let us draw our attention beyond the sphere of everyday life – beyond individual concerns, national issues, and even global concerns – towards the cosmic scale of affairs. Take this moment to consider the place of humanity in the grand scheme of the universe.

The entire span of life on Earth is but a flicker of light in a sea of eternal darkness whose beginning or end we can barely begin to conceive. We are children of Sol, the main-sequence star which burns at the center of our solar system; having formed from collapsing clouds of interstellar dust more than ten billion years ago. Almost all life on Earth, including ours, is directly or indirectly fueled by the energy our sun has continuously radiated for the past four and a half billion years. Since the emergence of the first organic life forms on Earth nearly four billion years ago, life has relentlessly grown in complexity at an exponential pace – slowly at first, getting faster and faster over time – populating every corner of the Earth with a vast array of diverse species from which humanity has emerged to dominate the planet.

And just as the evolution of life on Earth, human technology has followed a pattern of exponential growth over time. The more technology we develop, the greater capacity we have to produce even more powerful technology, creating a cycle of steadily increasing innovation which will continue to feed back into the technosphere indefinitely. The relentless wave of innovation which is radically transforming life in these times is proof enough that human technology is now driving change much faster than any other force on Earth. This process of exponential technological growth is best modeled by the theory of technological singularity, a term coined by mathematician John von Neumann and popularized by science fiction writer Vernor Vinge. This theory borrows from the concept of a singularity in physics which describes the theoretical region in space-time beyond the event horizon at the epicenter of a black hole, where the Standard Model of physics appears to break down completely. Similarly, the technological singularity represents a point in our near future when the emergence of smarter-than-human beings will trigger an explosion of intelligence that will render useless our ability to predict any further advances in technology.

The undeniable truth of our times is that the accelerating pace of technological progress is rapidly driving us towards the threshold of the next stage of human evolution. If the singularity model is correct, which is the position of a growing number of futurist thinkers, most notably Ray Kurzweil, we are almost certainly on the verge of crossing the theoretical event horizon into a technological singularity. Over the coming decades, we will witness the seamless integration of human and machine intelligence into something completely different; superior to either in almost every way possible – in ways we cannot even begin to imagine.

By the end of this century, humanity will have  been transformed far in excess of the sum total of changes we have accumulated from the dawn of civilization until now. Over the next few centuries, our descendants will increasingly build on our technological foundation and enhance their biology until they become completely unrecognizable to us – vastly superior in form and intellect. The fact that they evolved from us may someday seem as incredible to them as our own evolution from apes now seems to many of us. A thousand years from now, human civilization will have achieved heights utterly unimaginable to anyone living today. Ten thousand years from now, Earth will most likely be the epicenter of a Type II civilization whose borders extend well beyond the boundaries of this solar system. A hundred thousand years from now, our descendants will be voyaging across the stars into distant galaxies, extending the influence of the human empire into the farthest reaches of outer space.

An interesting thing to note is that beginning from this generation the personal histories of unprecedented numbers of people will be permanently recorded into the pages of history. Data storage technology increasingly allows us to capture and store incredibly vast quantities of information, including the minutiae of our everyday lives; essentially allowing us to build an extensive record of our lives in these times. Our photos, videos, emails, private messages, Facebook posts, and tweets may ultimately end up being archived and preserved by future generations of humans for as long as our civilization continues to persist, which may well be several thousands, millions, or even billions of years to come. Life before the digital age by comparison will seem like a black hole in history. We will forever be remembered as the first generation of humans to step into the light of history.

Each and every one of us alive today carries an enormous responsibility to shape the ultimate destiny of humanity. Every  choice we make generates ripples of causality that will impact future generations for eons in time and light-years space. Now is the time for us to lay the foundations from which may rise the greatest empire in the history of the universe. The next time you look up at the stars in the night sky, take a few moments to consider that children of Sol may someday look back down at this planet from the orbit of a distant star. They will tell stories about the planet of their origin; stories of the first homo sapiens to dominate the plains of Africa; of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome; the Inquisitions, Renaissance, and Enlightenment; the slave trade and world wars; the golden age of London, Paris, and New York. But most of all, they will remember us — the ones who took the first steps into the light — and they will carry our memories to the ends of the universe. Keep this in mind as you take your place in history.

Happy New Year from AfroCyberPunk