Positioning Afro-diasporic speculative design episteme in South African higher education institutions

Conference: 

Discipline: 

Design Education Strategy

Keywords: 

  • afro-diaspora, afrofuturism, decolonial and fallist movements, négritude, speculative design

The watershed Decolonial and Fallist movements in South African universities have reawakened and reignited the necessary, urgent, and compelling need to foreground and position Afro-diasporic episteme in South African university curricula and everyday practice. This article posits that centrally positioning Afro-diasporic Speculative Design (ASD) episteme in South African higher education design institutions, without necessarily displacing or subordinating other knowledge lenses, could positively contribute to engaging with some of the concerns raised by the Decolonial and Fallist movements in design pedagogy and praxis. It contends that African, and its diasporic, speculative designs draw on the retrospective but also project into the future. It sees this as a confluence between critical and technical design lessons, insights, and inspiration from the past and imagination, projection and visualization into the future. The article proposes that failure to engage with ASD or other Afro-diasporic episteme has the potential of excluding certain knowledge systems, especially from the Global South, from design education curricula therefore denying students an important design lens for their work.

This article lenses these design inspirations on two Afro-diasporic movements, Négritude, a movement that it sees as speculating on a probable past and Afrofuturism, which speculates on a plausible future. It draws parallels between these two movements and the Decolonial and Fallist movement identifying similar progression from alienation to revolt, followed by novelty and invention, and through to self-affirmation and self-fulfilment, which is discussed in all three movements. Afro-diasporic scholars such as WEB Du Bois, Abiola Irele, Kodwo Eshun and Woodrow Winchester III, among others, inform the discourse in the article. It concludes that design departments in institutions of higher learning are the ideal spaces to offer platforms, tools, methodologies, and direction to inspire novelty and invention that could launch design students’ journeys towards self-discovery and self-affirmation, positioning them for design journeys into the core of the fourth industrial revolution.

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