Dancer Keisha Janae speaks with an attendee at the 2022 AfroFuturist Weekend. The annual event returned Wednesday and runs until Sunday. Credit: Provided/Jonathan Woods

LOGAN SQUARE — The eighth annual AfroFuturist Weekend is bringing five days of Black art and music to Logan Square and Bronzeville.

The yearly Black-led festival invited Chicago-based and national Black, Indigenous and people of color artists to perform at various events, with sets themed around radical Black positivity and visions of Black futures. The Elastic Arts Foundation partnered with Fourtunehouse Art Center in Bronzeville to host the event.

Although the festival is free, Adam Zanolini, Elastic Arts executive director, recommended signing up on Eventbrite to secure a spot.

The festival kicked off Wednesday night and runs through the weekend:

  • 7:30 p.m. Thursday: Performances by Brown Calculus, Elijah Jamal Asani and more
  • 7:30 p.m. Friday:. AfroFuturist Ball featuring Fabulous Freddie and El La Katrina
  • 2 p.m. Saturday: Performances by Ayodele Drum & Dance, Laruni Hati Garifuna Dance Group of Chicago and Wild
  • 7:30 p.m. Saturday: Performances including Suspended Culture and DJ Duane Powell
  • 12 p.m. Sunday: An afternoon with Angel Bat Dawid’s Future Youth Ensemble
  • 6 p.m. Sunday: AfriClassical Futures Series

Elastic Arts is also hosting a visual art exhibit, presenting photography, abstract art, mixed-media works and more.

Zanolini said he’s excited to get a glimpse into each artist’s understanding of Afrofuturism.

Often, the concept brings to mind science fiction, like the works of famed Black sci-fi author Octavia Butler, Zanolini said. But that’s not all Afrofuturism encompasses: Some artists look at how African traditions can be woven into current technologies, while still more reflect on how to build a future without leaving behind the stories of the past, he said.

“Everyone’s vision of the future changes every year,” Zanolini said. 

Through a mix of genres and artists from different generations, the event shows “the expansion of Black art, and that it’s not so bordered,” said Elijah Jamal Asani, an Afrosurrealist artist who on Thursday will share a short film and a “sonic offering” about longing.

The variety of Black art at the AfroFuturist Weekend is particularly significant because so few Afrofuturism-themed events are led by an all-Black team, Zanolini said.

Elastic Arts aims to change that while uniting people across the city: “It’s time for us to all come together and have this sense of celebratory community and dream together, plan together, build together [toward] positive Black futures,” Zanolini said.

Sharon Udoh, an arranger and composer, will perform at this year’s AfroFuturist Weekend. Credit: Provided/Ricardo Adame

Sharon Udoh (who uses both she/her and they/them pronouns) will perform and moderate panels on themes related to Afrofuturism this weekend. They said that sense of community is why they love Elastic Arts.

Before moving to Chicago 14 months ago, Udoh — a participant in Elastic Arts’ Dark Matter Residency — rarely got to play classical music with other Black musicians, she said. Doing so now still feels surprising — as if the sky turned orange with purple polka dots, she said — but liberating.

When Udoh performs her composition, “Void,” with a quartet of Black performers this weekend, she’ll be embodying her vision of Afrofuturism, she said.

“Afrofuturism, to me, means that we can take our history, rewrite it, remix it and tell a new story for us, for our future,” they said. “For me, it means that there are Black classical musicians in the future, and I am one of them.”

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