No More Labels
This is an excerpt from a TED Talk called No More Labels, by Wanuri Kahiu, a Kenyan science fiction filmmaker and storyteller. It deals with science fiction and fantasy storytelling by artists who are African or of the diaspora, and the issues of racial identity amongst artists from Africa and of the diaspora. If you want to watch the whole video, I've added the link to it below.
Part of my journey has been, first saying that science fiction is not weird in Africa. It is not special. It is not curious. It is not an original thing. We have always been telling stories and in our stores, even as oral storytellers, we have used nature in our stories. We have talked about animals. We have talked about the ability of organic sciences in all of our stories. We have had fantasies. We have had myths in our own legends about our own self creation. Those things have existed, but recently there's been a phenomenon of labeling things, "Afro" this, or "Afro" that...
And one of those things that happened is my work started being labeled afro-futurist, and I appreciate the idea of afro-futurism because it brings together or draws attention to works and pieces of art that have either some sort of fiction or they bring in ideas of myth -- science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, and enveloped them into one.
But my concern is that by labeling my work as an Afro-futurist work, it means that it's very specific to people of the Diaspora, or people who are black, or people who are afro-something, and that concerns me because the story that I told was motivated by the very idea that I hate bottled water. I hate the fact that you have to buy bottled water -- the idea that you have to buy natural resources, because where does it end?
And that's the reason I really created Pumzi. When we, ourselves, start labeling ourselves, "afro" this or "afro" that -- when it doesn't matter what we do as an artist, if you are from Africa or if you're a person of the diaspora, you will immediately get that anyway. It doesn't matter if I stood here and I said, "I'm a filmmaker," there will be people who leave this audience and say, "Do you remember that black filmmaker from Kenya?"
That's what will happen whether I want it to happen or not. These are the things that will be imposed on us. So instead of us labeling ourselves and making it more specific and segregating ourselves from the whole human experience, I urge you to think wider than that and to have less labels and maybe just to Be...