Selam Bekele and the Resurgence of Bay Area 'Afrofuturism'

The night club is in Oakland. The dance floor is packed. Streams of various colored lights illuminate the room. Letters or characters from another language mix with images of a traditionally dressed Ethiopian woman, all projected on a wall. Juxtaposing the wall, is the DJ, Selam Bekele -- painter, musician, filmmaker and Afrofuturist.

By day you will find her in a studio she shares with other Oakland-East African artists such as Mahader Tesfai, painting colorful symbols of Africa past and present, intertwined with photographs on wood. As the day turns into night, she finds solace and new expression playing the karar, a bowl-shaped lyre from her native Ethiopia.

All of this, Bekele attributes to Afrofuturism, a growing artistic movement that has taken special root in the Bay Area.

“Afrofuturism is a mix of science fiction and social justice,” she explains. “An attempt to dismantle and deconstruct” a distinctly African experience of diaspora. Investigating her own sense of identity and cultural roots, Bekele's works call forth images and sounds from Ethiopia, through which we begin to see a very different African past, present and future.

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