“Afrofuturism is a cultural aesthetic that combines science-fiction, history and fantasy to explore the African-American experience and aims to connect those from the black diaspora with their forgotten African ancestry,”
This is the definition given by the Tate Gallery’s glossary, but it only begins to scratch the surface. For celebrated artist Elia Alba, the work of futurism is not just about connecting black people to black art and black history, in a way that is isolated from mainstream content. Instead, as is explored in her recent set of works, it is the effort to place black creativity at the heart of archetypes in fashion, design, art and literature. Simply put, the Afrofuturist takes their seat at the table in her series, entitled The Supper Club.
In an interview with Artsy, Alba explains her journey between making art, and the experience of sitting down with her subjects to unpack the issues. Over a series of supper club evenings, she did just that, teasing out the complexities of race, intersectionality and the experience of living in America. Her experiences served to shift her perspective.
“As artists, we do need to be more sensitive, because we’re putting stuff out into the world. I feel like I was very naïve for a while. Now, to use the contemporary language, I’m woke,” says Alba.
The works, which bring together photography, make up artistry, visual storytelling – depict various leaders in black creativity as new icons. Instead of the generic white man on horse = gentleman trop, Alba uses different successful people of colour to fully embody archetypes like “The Professor,” “The Dreamweaver” and true to her Afro-Latino heritage, “The Orisha.”
For over half a decade, Alba has engaged in various dinners, discussions and digital works which have tried to uncover the place of black (broadly speaking) creativity in a world which is still hugely unconcerned with black voices. And while the scene of work on representation is extremely littered (and rightly so), Alba’s bold, brash approach is out of this world.
Bursting with colour, rich black symbolism and all the marks of an experienced artist, her work is equal parts intelligent and elegant, poignant and easily accessible. Included are the works are graphic artist Chitra Ganesh (depicted as an alienesque David Bowie, complete with a huge bindi), Jacolby Satterwhite, Simone Leigh and Abigail De Ville, to name just a few. And while the famous faces bring their own magic to the work, the intentions are clear.
“It’s about reimagining icons and perceptions of what is beautiful—and who is beautiful.”