hacking time mines

Saul William’s fan­tas­tic musi­cal fea­ture Nep­tune Frost (2022), sets the tone for the coali­tion series “Hack­ing Time Mines”. In the Afro­fu­tur­is­tic sci-fi musi­cal, the myth­i­cal encounter of a miner and the inter­sex Nep­tune sparks a hacker com­mu­ni­ty’s rebel­lion against neo-colo­nial­ism and gender restric­tions. Nep­tune Frost is a thrilling explo­ration of queer­ness, romance, col­lec­tive resis­tance and the role of the medium of music within it. Its non-linear nar­ra­tive modes, blur­ring the lines between dreams and real­i­ty, in-between the past, the present and the future, make it a vivid exam­ple of cycli­cal tem­po­ral­i­ty that is rooted in African and Afro-dias­poric cosmologies.

There are many genealog­i­cal traces to Afro­fu­tur­ist vision­ary Sun Ra’s bril­liant sci-fi movie Space is the Place (1973). Space is the Place looks out­ward, beyond the earth­ly con­fines, and takes music as a vehi­cle for space travel, as well as a hacker’s device, to decode and recode the dom­i­nant scripts of real­i­ty. Sun Ra sees him­self, as an African Amer­i­can, as being left out of Euro­cen­tric his­to­ry books – as his story – and is rather inter­est­ed in mys­tery that he equat­ed with ‘my story’, the mys­tery that he set out to write him­self through­out the course of his life.

Both the movie and Sun Ra and his Arkestra need to be under­stood within the con­text of the space race, how­ev­er, with an alter­nate tra­jec­to­ry to the dom­i­nant impe­r­i­al nar­ra­tive of con­quer­ing space. Think­ing about the future of life on planet Earth cou­pled with imag­i­nar­ies of outer space has a long and con­test­ed tra­di­tion in the his­to­ry of mankind, as Abel Tilahun’s extract from Imag­ine the Cosmos (2023) shows. Par­tic­u­lar­ly the moon kept fuel­ing the human imag­i­na­tion and blur­ring the line between empir­i­cal real­i­ty and fan­tas­tic vision.

Con­trast­ing this ret­ro­spec­tive mode, the Kenian film­mak­er Wanuri Kahiu’s Pumzi (2009) offers a sci-fi vision of an African future in the after­math of World War III. Every single resource remains within the cycle, noth­ing is lost. In show­ing the dystopic ten­den­cies of such a pos­si­ble future, Pumzi offers a cri­tique of eco­topic narratives.

Taking up a sim­i­lar strand, Kan­tara­ma Gahi­giri short film Terra Mater (2023) takes one of the biggest chal­lenges of the present day and age – the enor­mous moun­tains of garbage that are being dumped through­out the African con­ti­nent as a result of many years of over­ex­ploita­tion. The garbage col­lec­tors, some­how rem­i­nis­cent of mine work­ers, are being watched over by a trash god­dess, restor­ing a sacred dimen­sion of the demys­ti­fied waste­land. Terra Mater explores our rela­tion­ship to land as a site for pos­si­ble future healing.

Two other recent films will be screened that nego­ti­ate African pres­ence between the colo­nial past and myth­i­cal visions of the future (LOBI KUNA by Matthias de Groof and MULIKA by Maisha Maene).

Pius Vögele, Center of African Studies
Uni­ver­si­ty of Basel, Switzerland

Curat­ed with Pius Vögele, Uni­ver­si­ty of Basel, and screened at #junc­tion Nairobi. 


Matthias De Groof
Belgium, Congo 2018 | 46 Min. | engl. subtitled

Sun, 21-May-23 04:30 PM
Q&A via Zoom with:
Matthias De Groof, Mehkar Azari Kiyoso
In the middle of a photo ses­sion in the Royal Museum for Cen­tral Africa in Bel­gium, a pho­tog­ra­ph­er is dis­turbed by the images cap­tured, macabre mem­o­ries, a mau­soleum of his … read more


Maisha Maene
Congo 2022 | 14 Min. | engl. subtitled

Sun, 21-May-23 04:30 PM
Q&A with:
Maisha Maene
An ’afro­naut’ emerges from the wreck­age of a space­ship in the vol­canic crater of Mount Nyi­ragon­go. As he descends into the city below, encoun­ter­ing the people of present-day Goma, he … read more


Anisia Uzeyman, Saul Williams
Rwanda, USA 2021 | 105 Min. | engl. subtitled

Sat, 20-May-23 03:00 PM
Q&A with:
Maisha Maene, Pius Vögele (Uni Basel)
Already hailed as a future cult film, this lav­ish­ly dec­o­rat­ed musi­cal impress­es with its rich­ness of asso­ci­a­tions. In a fan­tas­tic vision of the future, many con­tem­po­rary issues appear bun­dled and … read more


Wanuri Kahiu
Kenya 2009 | 21 Min. | engl. subtitled

Sun, 21-May-23 04:30 PM
The film is set in the East African region, 35 years after World War III, in a world with no water and toxic soil. The story is told through the … read more


John Coney
USA 1974 | 85 Min. | engl. subtitled

Fri, 19-May-23 10:00 PM
Q&A with:
Pius Vögele
Jazz legend Sun Ra plays with sev­er­al nar­ra­tive levels in this multi-lay­ered futur­is­tic sce­nario. First, the film is based on his music and the con­cept album of the same name. … read more


Kantarama Gahigiri
Rwanda, Switzerland 2019 | 10 Min. | engl. subtitled

Sat, 20-May-23 03:00 PM
Q&A with:
Cheryl Isheja (via zoom), Kantarama Gahigiri (via zoom), Pius Vögele (Uni Basel)
There she stands, con­fi­dent­ly, like a god­dess of tech­no­log­i­cal junk, sur­round­ed by end­less moun­tains of rub­bish, plas­tic, stench and rare earths. An angry appeal to the world to take respon­si­bil­i­ty … read more