Color and Material Inspiration: Afrofuturism

Afrofuturism is powerful and suggests what could be possible if sci-fiction and technology merged with black history.

How we chose the materials

The team decides on a theme ⁠— this time Afrofuturism, for its power and its wonder. Then, it’s time to collect reference images.

The Afrofuturist, Ikea and Design Indaba, Kendrick Lamar and SZA, CreativeSoul Photography’s AfroArt series

Duality is a defining feature of this palette: natural color, such as Rust or Marble Green, is highlit with Neon Yellow or Magnetic Blue. The focus on slow creative process and dedicated craftmanship, gives prominence to materials like copper, bronze, wood, and wicker. Between molten and hardened, the different states of materials explore the contrast between archaic and sleek.

The figureheads of Afrofuturism’s banner include the Hugo and Nebula-award winning author Octavia E. Butler, academic Reynaldo Anderson, pop stars Kendrick Lamar and Janelle Monáe, afrosurrealist D. Scot Miller and jazzman Sun Ra. In their artistic practice, they broadcast the uniqueness and innovation of black culture thanks to fantastic dreams and neo-myths.

Creatives working with this palette

The beauty of a palette is how cross-media it is. In the case of Afrofuturism, we find beautiful works of art in creations from all walks of life. Watch how they go beyond an aesthetic and bind together the idea of ancient traditions and a bright future.

Artwork by Mass Design Group

Benimana runs the Rwanda office of Mass Design Group, a research-focused architecture studio that frequently teams up with local governments and NGOs on socially driven projects. He is also the director of the African Design Center, an organisation that is championing the next generation of designers from the continent.

© Selly Raby Kane

This Senegalese fashion designer is known for her surrealist streetwear, which merges traditional African prints with contemporary cuts. Many of her sci-fi-influenced collections reference her home town of Dakar, and she counts Naomi Campbell and Beyoncé among her fanbase.

© Osborne Macharia

This creative photographer from Nairobi, Kenya, describes all his work as being within the afrofuturist genre. A recent commission from Marvel saw him produce a series of images for the Black Panther cinema release, bringing together Maasai traditions and science fiction.

© W Magazine 2016

Rihanna in “Baddest Bitch of Post-Apocalypse”, photographed by Steven Klein, styled by Edward Enninful, W magazine September 2016.

How the Substance team used the Afrofuturism theme

We like this theme so much, that we used it for the first part of the Crossroads video, made by Ronan Mahon and produced by the Substance team.

Read more about the video here.