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Inside the fantastical world of Afrofuturism, from P-Funk’s Mothership to ‘Black Panther’

In 1976, a sparkling silver spaceship landed on a stage in Houston to the sound of George Clinton and his musical ensemble Parliament-Funkadelic’s Mothership Connection. Since then, the mothership has become one the most iconic stage props in African American musical history—and a monument to Black culture so powerful that a replica of it was acquired by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2011.

This year, another replica has landed in the Oakland Museum of California—and its significance is equally momentous.

Named after the spaceship, Mothership: Voyage Into Afrofuturism is a new exhibition organized by OMCA curator Rhonda Pagnozzi and consulting curator Essence Harden, who pulled together an array of works by more than 50 Black artists, historians, and musicians. Their work examines Afrofuturism and Black culture.

Coined in the 1990s by cultural critic Mark Dery, Afrofuturism has come to define a cultural aesthetic, philosophy, and social movement that evaluates the past and future to create better conditions for the present generation of Black people. Drawing on the multiple facets of the movement, the multidisciplinary exhibition brings together art, music, literature, film, and stage props to portray the world through a Black cultural lens.

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