Three: Gendered Ecologies and Black Feminist Futures in Wanuri Kahiu's Pumzi, Wangechi Mutu's the End of Eating Everything, and Ibi Zoboi's "The Farming of Gods"

By Rico, Amanda Renée | Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies, Winter 2017 | Go to article overview

Three: Gendered Ecologies and Black Feminist Futures in Wanuri Kahiu's Pumzi, Wangechi Mutu's the End of Eating Everything, and Ibi Zoboi's "The Farming of Gods"


Rico, Amanda Renée, Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies


The concept of "Afrofuturism," as it has been conceptualized since the early 1990s by Mark Dery, has come to encapsulate aesthetic works of black cultural production that treat futurist themes concerning Africa and its diaspora. However, little emphasis has been placed on how this ever-evolving genre interconnects gender and ecology. This article addresses how diasporic Kenyanborn filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu's short film, Pumzi (2009), Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu's provocative digital film installation, The End of eating Everything (2013), and Haitian author Ibi Zoboi's short story, "The Farming of the Gods" (2010), imagine Africa's future through a careful examination of traditional images, symbols, and narratives - specifically those relating to ecology.1 My argument is twofold: first, I take my cue from Kahiu's assertion that we deconstruct the hegemonic discourses surrounding Africana science fiction or "Afrofuturism" as a purely forward-thinking concept. Second, I claim that the nature-related imagery found in these "Afrofuturist" works illustrate a need for scholars to examine how depictions of the future actively recycle and work through the past - specifically in relation to historical framings of black women's bodies. Ultimately, I demonstrate how Pumzi, The End of eating Everything, and "The Farming of the Gods," open up new ways of imagining and understanding diasporic identity, historical memory, and gender within an Africana context.

This article puts a short film, a brief digital film installation, and a short story into conversation to illustrate the relationship between gender and ecology within female-authored African and Caribbean science fiction film and fiction. Kenyan-born Wanuri Kahiu and Wangechi Mutu offer an Anglophone African science fiction perspective to the topic of gendered ecologies through the short film Pumzi and digital film installation entitled The End of eating Everything, respectively. Ibi Zoboi's short story, "The Farming of the Gods," provides a Francophone Caribbean science fiction perspective through her interweaving of traditional Haitian belief systems linked to land and fertility with a dystopian post- apocalyptic setting. Like Zoboi's short story, Kahiu's Pumzi focuses on the fertilization of land - using specifically the imagery of treesand metaphorically maps the imagery of fertilization onto black women's bodies. All three of these works also play with the theme of mothering and motherhood by using a black female body to create new metaphorical landscapes that enrich and enliven dying worlds.

My decision to analyze these three works stems from the lack of scholarship on Kahiu, Mutu, and Zoboi despite their notable contributions to the field of Afrofuturism as well as black feminist art in general. More specifically, while Mutu and Kahiu are more widely recognized in popular culture as up-and-coming artists and filmmakers from the African Diaspora, Zoboi - a Haitian author - is rarely mentioned in scholarship or popular culture. Despite her lack of renown, Zoboi's perspective is unique in the sense that she interweaves the post-apocalyptic with the historic. For instance, in a blog post, Zoboi mentioned that her short story, "The Farming of the Gods," was a response to the devastating earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010. Similarly, Mutu has described her work as responding to various ecological disasters and humankind's general disrespect for the preservation of the planet. In her numerous interviews, Kahiu also discusses how her films interconnect with ecology and the notion of a post-apocalyptic or science fiction world by claiming that Afrocentric perspectives have always used speculation and science to critique societal ills.

In an interview with Oulimata Gueye held during the exhibition "Si ce monde vous déplaít," Kahiu asserts that she was told by her director to label her 2009 short film, Pumzi, as either science fiction or fantasy since Western audiences separate the genres. …

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