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‘Ori Inu: In Search of Self’: An Afo-futurism Film Created to Combat the Whitewashing of African History


By Emann Odufu guest post for The AfroFuturist Affair

For years, the field of futurism has been pushing for a colorblind world where things such as race does not matter and where efforts could be spent on more important things, such as the global climate crisis or even finding another planet to colonize, should some cataclysmic event happen on Earth.

While those ideas are fine and dandy in theory, and efforts should be made on both behalves, the idea of a color blind society is problematic because it renders the African vision obsolete. The problem arises when text books, religious doctrines, films, and the like have literally been whitewashed by removing the accomplishments and contributions of Black and brown peoples to the modern world.

Our textbooks don’t speak of King Mansa Musa, the richest 2man ever. They don’t mention that the Moors, who were Black people, controlled much of Spain for hundreds of years. Our U.S. history books begin with Christopher Columbus discovering America, as if there weren’t a vibrant array of Native American people here, all with distinct cultures and spirituality. And further, when these indigenous or tribal cultures are portrayed, they are presented as if they are backwards and primitive.

I once heard an individual say, that he is grateful for slavery because if that did not happen he would be in Africa. This to me shows the effects of the institutions that have kept from us the glory and excellence that Africa once was, in an attempt to make us feel that what we have here in America, though not much, is better than what we would have had in Africa. Africa is portrayed to us in film as a war-torn continent and in television commercials, we are asked to donate to sickly African kids who are impoverished at a level we don’t understand. But that is not the complete picture of Africa.

ORIINUINSEARCHOFSELFWebOri Inu: In Search of Self was created to combat this whitewashing of history and to encourage and promote Black people around the diaspora to gain knowledge of self and our rich heritage. It is an Afro-futuristic film because of its usage of magical realism to celebrate the existence of non-western ideologies. It envisions an idea of modernity that is inclusive of Africa’s contributions to modern society. In the film, our protagonist, Natalia Diaz, played by the actress Helen Beyene, is visited in her dreams by orisha Yamanja who is guiding her on her spirit journey back to her roots in Brazil. Throughout the film, the orisha Papa Exu is constantly initiating Natalia into the spirit realm. Though at times Natalia is resistant to it, he continuously pushes her out of her comfort zone, and forces her to confront and make peace with her past.

DCIM100GOPROG0221730.Though the film revolves around a young women who is torn between the practice of Candomblé and Christianity, the story is a universal one of self-enlightenment, through an unconventional lens. The film was greatly inspired by Ishmael Reed’s Neo-Hoodoo Manifesto and his infamous book, Mumbo Jumbo, which states that every man is an artist and every artist a priest. Rather than creating an Afro-Futuristic film set, we set our film in the present day to show how Afro-Futurism is now. We believe that the music of the African diaspora, but especially hip-hop, is keeping alive the glory and warrior spirit of our ancestors. For that reason, music plays an extremely important role in the film, which features performances by Les Nubians and OSHUN NYC.

Additionally, the film shows the importance of understanding the past and your roots, and how that act of self-examination and knowledge of self will create a brighter future, not only for people of African descent, but all peoples.

It is our hope that the film will serve as a tool to connect cultures and have people see the similarities between differing religions and backgrounds, while showing the divinity of Black and brown people that is far too often underrepresented in modern day media.

Emann Odufu is a Newark NJ born, writer, art activist, scholar, musician, Afro-futurist and aspiring visual art curator. He worked on a variety of initiatives including Obama’s Promise Neighborhood program to reform education practices in struggling school districts. Odufu is the Co-Creator of “Ori Inu: In Search Of Self”, an indie short film that he created with his sister Chelsea Odufu. 

Rasheedah Phillips is a Philadelphia public interest attorney, mother speculative fiction writer, the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair, the creator of Black Quantum Futurism multimedia collaborative, and a founding member of Metropolarity speculative fiction collective. She recently independently published her first speculative fiction collection, Recurrence Plot (and Other Time Travel Tales), and an anthology of experimental essays from Black visionary writers called Black Quantum Futurism: Theory & Practice Vol. I.

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