This story is a part of The Melanin Edit, a platform in which Allure will explore every facet of a melanin-rich life — from the most innovative treatments for hyperpigmentation to the social and emotional realities — all while spreading Black pride.
Wielding pieces of wire and bundles of kinky hair, hairstylist and makeup artist Fesa Nu meticulously braids a last-minute creation she dreamed up on the set of Chole Bailey's Flaunt cover shoot. After weaving at least five plaits over pieces of wire, Nu fixes them to look as if they are floating mid-air. They are tied just far enough from the ends to bloom into cloud-like puffs, piercing the fire-colored sky behind her.
You'd be right to call it a work of art — one part of a canon that is ever-changing and expanding. Afrofuturism: the word itself sounds like it belongs in the title of a comic book or vintage film. But it's more like a movement, ideology, and at times, an aesthetic. It's a form of Black cultural expression that ties together the past, present, and future. The term was first coined by the author Mark Dery in his 1993 essay, "Black to the Future." The work explores speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, and the like) through interviews with Black creatives Samuel R. Delaney, Greg Tate, and Tricia Rose.
But Afrofuturist aesthetics were already taking shape long before Dery wrote about it in the '90s. As early as the 1950s, Black artists were laying the visual, sonic, and sartorial groundwork for the cultural movement. In an Architectural Digest essay breaking down the history of Afrofuturism, writer Taylor Crumpton describes it as "a fluid ideology shaped by generations of artists, musicians, scholars, and activists whose aim is to reconstruct 'Blackness' in the culture." The movement is informed by Black history and African tradition — it must be, as Jaime Broadnax explains in a 2018 essay for the Huffington Post, in order to exist. "A narrative that simply features a Black character in a futuristic world is not enough," she writes. "To be Afrofuturism, it must be rooted in and unapologetically celebrate the uniqueness and innovation of Black culture." Drawing from history, the movement honors the Black experience and creates a vision of the future through mediums like music and visual arts.