Yes. Diaspora is the wound that is full of possibility. This feeling of dislocation and displacement necessitates the formation of new narratives and hybridization. I have this theory that when you set foot on a soil, you are connected to all the ancestors that have set foot there as well, and all of their gods. It becomes this meeting in the skies with all the forces that have tended to that land and all the forces you carry within your body. There’s so much beauty and innovation that emerges from diaspora, this kind of reckoning with a rupture. The predecessor to Afropresentism was my project #DigitalDiaspora, which was informed by work of the same title by Anna Everett. I was looking at techno-cultures of diaspora, and early social networks that emerged from diaspora communities. For example, Naija Net, which emerged in the late ’90s, was a place for Nigerians in the diaspora to connect to jobs and housing and just feel a sense of togetherness despite their distance from their homeland. Diaspora is an internet of its own. How do we connect across distances to the lands that have sheltered us for so long?

Having come of age on the internet, I’ve always believed in the promise of connectivity. I was born in Nairobi, but I grew up in Colorado, and I spent most of my time indoors on the computer, on Tumblr, on AOL, just making friends with people online. So much of my blossoming and coming into myself was seeing images of people who do that online. So it has this immense connective power, but there’s also trauma that comes along with it. I was exposed to a lot of pretty severe racism online. There’s an interesting anonymity the internet creates, which can sometimes bring out the worst in people.

It’s interesting sharing my theory work online because the connection is marred by this sense of immense distance. People don’t necessarily feel a responsibility to respect authorship in the internet space, because it can feel like a seamless, authorless spread of information and ideas. For Black people, Black queer people, African people, there’s a history of extraction that plagues us and follows us into the digital realm.

Another theorist and artist who inspires me is Tabita Rezaire, and she has spoken about the online world not being spared from the ills of the offline world: from classism and sexism, queerphobia, transphobia, and so on. So, the idea of data healing emerged from the term data trauma, which was coined by the artist and programmer Olivia McKayla Ross. But it also emerged as an opportunity to think about the intersections of technology, nature, and spirituality. I began to think about how computer technology, which we see as external to us, is informed by patterns and habits in the natural world and in the spiritual world. These are matrices of connectivity that are beyond our conventional understanding. I always say mushrooms are the original internet. They have a deep, expansive web in the subsoil through which they pass information, resources, and nutrients to one another. I’m really interested in thinking about indigenous perspectives on the web and indigenous blueprints for technologies as a way of healing our extractive and domineering relationship to devices and to the conventional internet.

It’s been a challenge for me as somebody who has relied on online spaces as platforms for curatorial work, and also as someone who is skeptical of museums, of what they mean and what they carry. I think curating can happen even in form of a conversation—when you curate a gathering of friends and see what is born from that. Lately, I’ve been thinking about what it looks like to be very in-person about curating, to curate ideas. It’s an interesting dance of acknowledging that many of us are pulling from the same source, that we have linkages in our past; our bodies and our ancestry evoke similar connections. I’m also thinking about the challenges of authorship online and how easy it is for those things to be extracted from you and placed on a different scale by people who have a different access to resources or whatever the case may be. In the future, I’m looking forward to curating in public spaces, in more experimental ways, curating sounds, just seeing what it can be, what shape it can take.

I did have one thing to add about Afrofuturism. A key distinction is that Afrofuturism is concerned with Space and Afropresentism is concerned with Earth.

Neema Githere