An Afrofuturist Comic

An illustrated interview with Ikem Nzeribe, in which electric cats roam our cities and Miles Davis albums play on repeat

24 sec read

My name is Ikem Nzeribe.
I'm from Manchester, and I'm an artist/coder.
I head up @MossCodeClick, a grassroots education startup.
I like to see myself as a bit of a firestarter.
Might sound a bit lofty, I know, but I don't think "social justice" adequately describes what I'm about.
To bake this cake takes three carefully measured cups of technology, architecture, and insurrection!
I've always been a sci-fi head.
I have an obsessive relationship to hypertext and model my own worlds. It's a way of thinking, to fold time and space in on itself.
What is a wormhole, if not a hypertext?
I follow the links in my own mind...
In my future, electric cars roam the cities, scavenging for power, and causing mayhem.
It must have been in the early 90s when I first heard the term "Afrofuturism" being used, so it's been floating around for a while.
We've always been at it, I guess the coherent body is this movement is what's emerging, coming to the fore.
Afrofuturism runs forwards and backwards, so it is misnamed in some ways.
Miles Davis changed my life, hands down.
That string of albums...
from "In a Silent Way"
to "On the Corner."
Now that's freedom, right there!
More specifically, "Bitches Brew" from 1970.
It rearranged my teenage brain at17 years old.
I didn't believe this music was possible.
I lay on the floor of a darkened room, attempting to decipher it, to go where it took me.
Have you seen the cover of that album? It's a gatefolddouble album, with a voodoo priestess channeling light.
That was all I needed to know.
It didn't hurt at all that my drum teacher in classical African percussion played with Sun Ra in the 50s.
If time exists as a spiral, like a strange of DND, I am building towards the great works of my ancestors, the people of Kemet, whose greatness and blackness will stand for all time.
My work in digital services is a bridge between these two epochs.
We will meet in the middle.
There are other bridges as well.
Africans in the diaspora are the future of the race.
My parents came from what is now South East Nigeria in the 1960s and Igbos, from whom I am descended, are becoming a historical people...
...quick to cast off the achievements and traditions of the past in the pointless quest for modernity.
Being fully British and fully Igbo without contradiction, agitating for a United States of Africa whilst rocking Garveyite fundamentals... There's something very hip-hop about it, but why would that be a surprise?
Afrofuturism is the medium that enables me to make the connections but it always needs to go beyond the artistic aesthetic and absorb the work of our scholars and master teachers on African history.
Cheikh Anta Dop, pre-colonial African culture and human races origins.
Marimba Ani, "your culture is your immune system."
Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, "515 Papers: the Key to the Colours" & "500 Years Later"
...they should be totems in this reconstruction effort.
I'd like to see more attention paid to Dr. Claud Anderson's "Powernomics" framework, which is the practice of how we're going to build the institutions that will incubate the next generation of black thought from which Afrofuturism springs.
It's the melding of art, science, and technology; the alchemy and blending of such seemingly unrelated entities that we do as black people...'s this meta-view that we have to take back to Igboland, where their greatness has been lost and their timeline–like those of most myopic Africans, in thrall to Europe–has been abandoned...
Diaspora peoples are the glue that will bring the fragments back together.
The same goes for technology–new paradigms will emerge from black thought, computing modes that look unlike that which exists now, but it is for Africans to grasp the intellectual nettle.
...It takes guts, nerve to do a different thing than that of our European colonizer.
Computing as it exists today is brittle, and better ways of doing things have been abandoned in very recent history–Douglas Englebart shows much of the innovation that was lost in his famous 1968 "Mother of All Demos" at the Stanford Research Institute.
The early 1970steam that emerged from Xerox PARC is another example.
If we can summon the courage to delve into our own cultural frameworks as a source of inspiration, new models will emerge in short order.
There are layers on layers of genius in black minds...
We don't need assistance...
...just the space to redefine ourselves.
Afrofuturism is that space.
It will liberate black minds, enabling us to think freely for the first time in 500 years...
...I think that's quite enough.

Words: Ikem Nzeribe
Florence Okoye
Charlotte M L Bailey

Ikem Nzeribe is a photographer, hacker, and self-described “technoprophet” based in Manchester, U.K. An active attendee of local tech meetups, he is also the founder of MossCode, a digital education startup in the heart of the historic black community of Moss Side. We asked him to share his thoughts about Afrofuturism and the international diaspora for this piece.

The logo for How We Get To Next's Afrofuturism section, showing a black woman looking up into space

How We Get To Next was a magazine that explored the future of science, technology, and culture from 2014 to 2019. This article is part of our collection of conversations about Afrofuturism, curated and edited by Florence Okoye of Afrofutures UK. Click the logo to read more.