This Design Indaba global graduate and visual artist discusses his short film Earth Mother, Sky Father: 2030
Experience the Democratic Republic of Congo in the near future through the lens of Kordae Jatafa Henry’s short film, ‘Earth Mother, Sky Father: 2030’. The movements of dancer Storyboard P and the soundscapes of Shabazz Palaces fill a wide industrial landscape with healing energies that draw on the rituals and mythologies of Kuba culture to summon up the God of Rare Earth.
The emerging filmmaker was driven to create this work after researching the exploitative mineral trade in Africa, specifically coltan, which is mined in DRC and then shipped to China to be turned into batteries for mobile phones. “I was looking at labour, and the black body as labour, and how labour has changed over time through automation and Artificial Intelligence and all of these technological advances,” Henry tells Nataal at Design Indaba 2019, where he invited as a speaker. “Through that process it became clear to me that I needed to look at the origins of the thing that we all carry, our phone. What if we could tell a new story of hope and faith in the technology of tomorrow? In the film, Africa is control of its own minerals and the Congolese people have new renewable energy guided by the spirit.”
“Afrofuturism is a space of opportunity for a lot of people of colour”
Raised by a Jamaican mother and British father in Washington DC, Henry chose to study architecture, which took him to Los Angeles for his postgraduate studies where he found himself increasingly drawn to other mediums. “I enjoyed building spaces but the idea of telling stories through spaces was more interesting to me,” he says. “I’m fascinating by film and the ability it gives you to reimagine tangible things while working with traditional tools.”
His storytelling finds its roots in afrofuturism in all its forms, from the music of Bobby Digital and Sun Ra to the art of Kerry James Marshall and Nick Cave to the writings of Octavia Butler. “Afrofuturism is a space of opportunity for a lot of people of colour. It allows us to reimagine our own context and gives way to a vision that could come true,” he says. “A lot of times we can stay in a very negative rut when we talk about race, gender and class but afrofuturism and sci-fi allows us to see a new world, which is especially important in this day and age.”
While he hopes his own future holds setting up his a multi-disciplinary studio spanning film, fashion, music, architecture and installation, his next project in development keeps its gaze on the continent, this time exploring the culture of sport beyond its function as simple entertainment. “I’m excited about Senegalese wrestling in the way that it’s intimate and challenges masculinity. That sport has both extremes – it’s tough but it’s about bodies touching and there’s something beautiful in that.”