REBIRTH IS NECESSARY (2017), by British-Nigerian filmmaker Jenn Nkiru (London, England, 1987), is a deftly paced video with great visual appeal, featuring archival images, footage from other films, and music. Influenced by African and diasporic cinema, especially by Afrofuturism, it presents a spirited look at blackness and the forms of political and cultural resistance.
Afrofuturism was an aesthetic and intellectual movement that emerged in the late 1960s amidst the struggle against racism and for civil rights in the United States. With science-fiction narratives that projected Africa and its descendants to a high level of technological and social development, Afrofuturism, yet today, can be identified by characteristics such as realism, fantasy, non-Western ways of thinking, and references to African and diasporic art.
Slavery snatched millions of African women and men away from their territories and their religious and cultural practices. Various theoreticians have compared their subsequent overseas experience as a process of abduction, in which black people, while surviving the violence and the process of deterritorialization they underwent, ended up like extraterrestrials in a new culture. This comparison, which sounds as cruel as it is curious, enabled intellectuals, artists and activists – like jazz musician Sun Ra (1914–1993), writer Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006) and George Clinton, the leader of the bands Parliament and Funkadelic – to come up with the structural arguments they raised in opposition to the silencing imposed by slavery.
For its part, the legacy of slavery usurped the right to memory and to individuality, but did not silence the drive of black women and men to recover their historical prominence and resume their ancestralities. In this sense, the video by Nkiru updates the Afrofuturist message: the black person is the past, present and future, and for this reason, resistance is also a form of rebirth.
Throughout 2019, the videos presented here are part of the cycle of MASP’s Histories of Women, Feminist Histories. The program spotlights the production of women artists from different nationalities, generations and backgrounds, aiming to promote discussions about feminisms and representativity in the field of the arts.
Video room: Jenn Nkiru is curated by Horrana de Kássia Santoz, assistant of mediation and public programs at MASP.