For a glimpse into Africa’s possible future, pay a visit to menswear brand Ikiré Jones. Designer Wale Oyejide has conceived sparkling micro narratives that envisage Nairobi, Johannesburg, Lagos, and several other African cities circa 2081 helmed by an impeccably clad hero. It’s a welcome respite amidst the devastating recent news of kidnapping and possible sale of nearly 300 girls and the slaughter of up to 59 boys in Nigeria, spiraling conflict in South Sudan, and the death sentencing of a pregnant Sudanese woman for practicing Christianity.
Whether the brand’s eponymous protagonist finds himself on a caravan approaching “New Lagos” or detained in a holding cell at Burundi’s Bujumbara Airport, the collection’s color-saturated blazers, and painterly scarves and pocket squares serve as entry to each port of call. Oyejide says the speculative fiction underscoring his pieces is a response to past and present characterizations of Africa, and challenging conditions on the ground.
Brand notes for Ikiré Jones Fall 2013 specifically expressed the desire to “unpack the figurative and literal baggage” that comes with broad stroke ideas of the continent. “Here, amidst the culture, food and sights of New Lagos,” collection messaging asserts, “there is room for the future to become present…"
Oyejide is among a group of African creatives actively imagining what the continent’s future might look like to residents—and how said future will impact the rest of the world.
Filmmaker Cherie Lindiwe and a team of producers collaborated with executive producer Marc Rigaudis on the Kenyan sci-fi series “Usoni” set in 2063. “Europe is dead,” a character declares in the pilot episode as he and his companion contemplate fleeing to Africa through Lampedusa—the Italian island where a final count of 300-plus Africans died at sea last October trying to emigrate in the opposite direction.
Tony Mochama is working on a novel also set in Kenya circa 2063.
“I chose to set my story in the future,” he expounded via email, “because unlike the past, the future cannot be distorted. Nor can one extrapolate present day stereotypes into the more distant future, without a certain syllogism of malice. The future can only be imagined! And that means freedom for the writer, to roam, to create, a country of the individual, and of the mind.”
That creative freedom is critical to novelist Nnedi Okorafor who has authored several books and stories exploring how everything from an alien invasion to nuclear war might impact African characters and settings. “I'm not writing an essay of how things can improve. I'm not serving as anthropologist. I'm not writing a news story,” she makes clear. “I'm writing a story set in a part of future Africa.”
Improvements do play some part in the imaginings, however.
“The general thrust of the ‘New Lagos 2081’ narrative,” Oyejide shares, “was that economic class divide in Africa would be greatly narrowed because everyone would have access to, and control of, Nigeria's oil resources.”
Likewise, Okorofar’s novel The Shadow Speaker explores a potential solution to the paucity of potable water on the continent. “I was curious about what would happen if a portable cheap water producing machine were introduced to the most distressed parts of the African Sahara region.”
But the magic of the unknown is what moves the story forward.
“One thing that I'd like to note,” Okorafor writes, “is the possibility of some wild card that no one foresees, a wild card that'll throw all assumed and current power structures and hierarchies off kilter.”
Mochama likens writing the future to predicting the weather. “The only thing we know for now is this one thing: the future is a weather forecast… and gives us goose bumps.”