Black Atlantis

Hameed, Ayesha. 2019. Black Atlantis. In: Henriette Gunkel and Kara Lynch, eds. We Travel the Space Ways: Black Imagination, Fragments and Diffractions. Bielefeld: Transcript, pp. 107-126. ISBN 9783837646016 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

This is an extract from a script that accompanies sounds and images that I have been collecting for an ongoing live audio-visual essay called Black Atlantis. Black Atlantis looks at the Black Atlantic and its afterlives in contemporary illegalized migration at sea, in oceanic environments, through Afrofuturistic dancefloors, and soundsystems and in outer space. Using Walter Benjamin’s concept of the dialectical image I examine how to think through sound, image, water, violence, and history as elements of an active archive; and the late twentieth century electronic music duo from Detroit, Drexciya’s framework of time travel as an historical method. (A majority of these elements are presented in unlikely pairs, juxtaposed with one another).

Black Atlantis combines two discourses: Afrofuturism and the Anthropocene. This follows Phil Sternberg’s critique of the original formulation of the Black Atlantic, which he points out focuses on surfaces rather than depths of the ocean (Sternberg 2015: n.p.). As a result, the wetness of the ocean is lost and thus its haptic, tactile quality is lost.

This script takes Drexciya and their creation of a sonic, fictional world as a point of departure. Through liner notes and track titles, they take the Black Atlantic below the water with their imaginary of an Atlantis comprised of former slaves who have adapted to living underwater. The leap to Drexciya would be at once into the past and towards a sci-fi future. The pendulum swings, time bifurcates, and the image flickers.

What wetness brings back to the table is a sense of the haptic, the sensory, the bodily, and the epidermal. What below-the-water, and Atlantis brings back is the bottom of the sea, the volume of the water, the materiality of the space of the ocean, and other protagonists that inhabit the sea.

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Visual Cultures


18 July 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

17 Jan 2020 10:42

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18 Jul 2020 01:26


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