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Indigenous Futurisms, Decolonial Futures

Shareeka Helaluddin navigates a forty-six minute interstellar journey of galactic proportions.

Shareeka Helaluddin navigates a forty-six minute interstellar journey of galactic proportions.

A mix tape opens with a NASA countdown. It shifts to the words of John Mohawk—American Indigenous activist of the Seneca Turtle Reserve. The beats that follow are ambient, rhythmic and transient; each fragment of a song, speech or manifesto seamlessly morphs into the next. Collaboratively produced by Revolution Per Minute (‘RPM’) and Kimiwan zine, the mix tape, titled Indigenous Futurisms, is an experimental compilation that explores intertwined Afro-Indigenous histories, ongoing processes of colonialism and the imagining of decolonial worlds and beyond. It creates a world (or worlds) where the narratives and experiences of Indigenous peoples are central, a conceptual process that converges digital technology with radical appropriations of technology, science fiction imagery and audio.

The description of the “Indigenous Futurisms” project follows this line of thought, evoking the ‘final frontier’ from pop culture representations as one opening into Indigenous voyages through space:

“Where the supposed ‘finality’ of Star Trek’s frontier meets the remixed linguistic flip of Navajo Star Wars, and where the sounds of comet landings and galactic space dust meet the 6th World encoded in Indigenous exploration of night-lit skies and interplanetary, opaque spaces, our people have always been moving.”

With an electronic backbone composed of otherworldly sounds (including A Tribe Called Red, Kelela, Silver Jackson, Princess Nokia, Flying Lotus and Erykah Badu, to name only a few) the mix tape is deliberately disparate, multi-textual and non-linear; a constellation of ideas and energies, sounds and forces. What connects the work is a commitment to portraying complicated and sometimes vexed histories of Indigenous and Afro-Indigenous peoples and visions of the future where identities emerge from the periphery. Simultaneously, it critiques dominant systems of power and subjugation, offering futurist solutions based on a subversive ethos.

The creators of Indigenous Futurisms utilise technology in all its realisations, from the galactic machinations presented in the compilation to Indigenous speculative fiction writing, artistic production, and the potential for space travel, whether imaginative or cosmological. Significantly, the understanding that technology is essential to contemporary Indigenous constructions of selfhood, contrasting notions of Indigenous peoples as primordial ‘artefacts’ of a bygone past. Here, the logic of modernity, as a teleological orientation that leaves colonised Others behind, is not viable. The construct of time is no longer simply forward-moving. The present is understood through the prism of the past and future.

Of course, this is but one manifestation of resistance allowing Indigenous peoples to claim space where they are otherwise rendered invisible. It demands a contemplation of history and origin that informs a future that does not reproduce dominant powers. It counteracts dichotomous notions of identities, home and place, past and present and gestures towards forging new technological and political imaginaries. Indigenous Futurisms leaves lingering a dialogue about the political potential of creative practices and the creative potentials of political practices.

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