Afrofuturism – Now, More than Ever

Afrofuturism now more than ever

8 September 2020 – Faith Honey – Johannesburg

When Artist Lillian Gray set out to complete this exhibition, she had no idea how it would become so relevant almost six months later. Now, more than ever, is a time to stand together and to celebrate each other.

Negative stereotypes concerning race and specifically black people are still strong in the world and especially in South Africa. These stereotypes act as a divide between us, they wrongly paint certain traits out to be abnormal or unacceptable, or inferior. As artists it is our duty to turn these stereotypes into a celebration of difference and of beauty. It is our responsibility as artists to be inclusive as a way of teaching those around us to be inclusive too.

With the current social and political reactions pertaining to unfair commentary about different races’ hair, you might be tempted to ask yourself “well, what’s the big deal about hair?”. The short answer is that it is not really about hair at all. It is about feeling at home in our own skin and feeling at home in the universe.

“Hair is beauty, hair is emotion, hair is our heritage, hair tells us who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going.” 

From Netflix’s Self-Made, a tribute to Madam C.J. Walker

Hair is about more than just self acceptance. It is about securing our place in the world, saying “this is me, and I belong here”. It is about proudly taking up space.

Artist Lillian Gray’s Afrofuturism series is about strong, black women coming into their power. This series is meant to show the black female identity growing and shining and being celebrated for its beauty, this is shown through the growth of their hair and halos into crowns that shine brightly and proudly for all to see. Within each of us lives a light, a light which is both unique to us, and which is a part of all of us. This light can be tainted, or broken, it can shine brightly, or be dimmed by the hardships of life, but it is our responsibility to fight to always reignite this light and to share it with the world, because we need our own light, and the world needs our unique light too. In this series of paintings, these internal lights are represented as halos around the beautiful female forms, and it tells their stories and shows their resilience as they share their light with the world. The halos are reminiscent of paintings from the Byzantine era which gives the idea of a re-imagining of a past for the female identity, especially the black female identity.

Artist Lillian Gray is exclusively represented by the Julie Miller African Contemporary Art Gallery in South Africa, and all artworks above are available from her website as a part of the #ALLWOMXNMATTER Group Exhibition.

Audacia

This series starts off with Audacia who is bold and brave, her halo is jagged and tainted. She is proudly female and carries her past like it is a trophy, because she still stands tall, and the suffering could not put out her fire. 

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Alba Lillian Gray

Alba means ‘birth’. Her halo is larger than Audacia’s and is also more defined; her light is that of the future whilst the cultural markings on her face suggest a history and a culture which she carries with her. In this sense she is indeed the rebirth, the Renaissance of the future black female identity which consists both of a past and of freedom to be exactly who she is, and in so doing she creates a place where we can be exactly who we are. 

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Chloe Lillian Gray

Chloe is an undeniable power. She wears a crown. She is a culmination of ideas brought together to re-imagine the past. Chloe expresses all parts of her female identity – she is power and beauty, she is empathy and cruelty, she is the gentle blue roses and the sharp yellow crown. Her energy is that of female-kind, a praise to all women and all of their unique crowns. 

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Raina Lillian Gray

Raina’s halo hovers around her and into the viewer. She wears her light like a crown, and her afro like a halo. With the founded confidence and pride of Audacia, and the undeniable light of Alba she shines brightly for all to see. She is bathed in the patterns of Africa and looks to the viewer for nothing more than praise and appreciation. She is the queen of our time, the culmination of a past filled with hardship, and a future filled with promise.

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