The Apollo 11 space mission, the first to bring two white men to the Moon, is the Stars and Stripes success par excellence. July 20, 1969 was one of the most important days of the twentieth century, by itself able to shape forever the Western imaginary of space conquest. But have you ever seen an African American go to the moon? If it has happened to you recently, it is thanks to works such as Black Panther, a movie directed by Ryan Coogler and released in 2018, which brings to the mainstream a cultural current called Afrofuturism.

Combining music, literature, visual arts, performance and radical theory, Afrofuturism was born in the 1970s from the will of black Americans to claim the same civil and social rights as white people. They wanted to create their own imagery of future and use of technology, merging science fiction and elements from African American history and culture. As writer, performing artist and producer Keisha Thompson puts it: “At its core, Afrofuturism uses the black experience to create work that is otherworldly, cosmic and surreal. For me, it’s about creative freedom. Using political pain and channelling it. Taking the experience of being ‘othered’ and subverting it into something otherworldly. It’s about using the knowledge of our ancestors to battle the erasure that we experience on a daily basis” (Minamor 2018). From these experiences, many new terms are spreading recently to represent alternative perspectives: chinofuturism, arabfuturism, blaccelerationism, gulf futurism, ethnofuturism… Starting from various ethnic and social conditions, they allow specific communities to express their vision of the future (Avanessian and Moalemi 2018).

With the term Terùnfuturism, I would like to represent the complex nature of Southern Italy, with its continuous tension between global influences and local traditions and a desolating lack of future perspectives. Southern Italy is in the middle of the Mediterranean, between the flows from Suez to Gibraltar, on the southern border of the European Union and a short distance from Africa. It is therefore almost impossible to define its identity, but it is much more interesting to discover the hybridizations it has undergone and much easier to tell its contradictions. So, the word does not simply look at its specific issue but is supportive of all the south of the world. The word “terrone” (also pronounced “terùn”) was introduced into the Italian dictionary for the first time in 1950. According to Accademia della Crusca “it was born in the great urban centres of Northern Italy with the value of ‘peasant’ [such as villain and boorish] and used, in a derogatory or humorous way, to indicate the inhabitants of the South as it was a region characterised by backward agriculture” (Lo Re 2017).

With this text I am seeking the basis of what I would like to be a new culture for Southern Italy. In the United States there are so many artists I appreciate who have been influenced by Afrofuturism, from Sun Ra to Erykah Badu, from Jean-Michel Basquiat to Ytasha L. Womack. But what about (Southern) Italy?

It is interesting to notice how the diffusion of a science fiction imaginary in Italy is somehow linked to the Apollo 11 mission. According to Gino Roncaglia: “in Italy, science fiction only really spread between the 1950s and 1960s, so it was immediately linked to the space race. Just think of the ‘night of the moon’ and in general the television chronicles of the first space missions, which saw the alternation of connections with NASA and science fiction movies” (Roncaglia 2014). The Italian literary scene, however, has always been linked to the influence of Anglo-Saxon predecessors and managed with difficulty to develop its own style. An original case is a story by Dino Buzzati entitled 24 marzo 1958, contained in the collection 60 Racconti, which, starting from a classic plot about space expeditions and astronauts, turns out to be a modern interpretation of the Divina Commedia.

Between 1977 and 1982 the radical science fiction magazine Un’Ambigua Utopia was published, which has recently been digitalised and freely republished for use by grassroots movements throughout Italy. In the first editorial of the fanzine, the anonymous collective gave its definition of science fiction: “Our imagination, creativity, spontaneity, play, pleasure, enjoyment. All this has been hidden, buried, repressed by official science, which has assumed its idol in the so-called ‘principle of reality.’ Science fiction is the spokesperson for the ‘principle of pleasure.’ […] It is a sign of revolt against all this, it is the reckoning of the principle of pleasure on the principle of reality.”

Coming in recent times, it is the concept album Debug, by the Neapolitan rapper and producer Emcee O’Zi, which contains all the ingredients I am interested in to define the concept of Terùnfuturism: it manages to put together tradition, always rapping in Neapolitan dialect, social criticism, talking about Naples’ contemporary issues, and dystopian imagery, drawing from the literature of the Absurd and from cyberpunk. Emcee O’Zi sketches a dystopian Naples without being prescriptive, having the strength to create an open vision that includes the listener.

Finally, an interesting case study of contemporary Terùnfuturism concerns – also – architecture and design: in Taranto, the Post Disaster collective annually organises an interdisciplinary festival to discuss the city’s tragic environmental condition, questioning: “Is it possible to interpret disaster as a starting condition towards a happy drift?” The work by the collective demonstrates that design disciplines can be essential in materialising abstract visions and concepts concerning politics, economics and ecology. They continue: “The ‘post’ enables us to imagine possible futures through continuous shifts of vision between the real and the possible.”

If Afrofuturism shows us the close connection between traditions, creative energies and new political visions, I hope that this first and reduced selection of examples from modern Italian culture shows that the seeds for a non-stereotyped view of the future can also come from the most disadvantaged regions of Italy. But that’s not enough. Terùnfuturism is an invitation to go to peripheries, provincial towns, the islands. Mine is an appeal to put at the service intelligence and competences to rebuild through the imagination those territories that are resigned to no longer have a future and that are condemned to a perpetual present. We gotta go south.

we like / eating and drinking / and we don’t like to work

Reference List

Photo Credits

  • Cover Image
    Oh my demon’s Cybermadonna,
    in that crypt underneath Piazza Termini
    you saw me cheerful in the morning.
    It was ketamine.
    It was October, and my brain was running a fever,
    of Melanzagni and synchronicity.
    Credits: XenoSora Scrocchiarella and The Fully AOtomated Cuppolonies
  • Image 1: we like / eating and drinking / and we don’t like to work
    Credits: XenoSora Scrocchiarella and The Fully AOtomated Cuppolonies

Salvatore Peluso

He does not properly understand the difference between teaching and learning. He is an independent writer and curator, focusing on architecture, art, design, and all their intersections.