Celebrating Black Creatives Aotearoa’s Afro-Kiwi Zine: Black to the Future

Jennifer Onyeiwu writes about Black to the Future, a zine from Black Creatives Aotearoa that celebrates Black joy and excellence.

Black to the Future, a zine curated by the skilful editors Acacia Cochise and Bareeka Vrede alongside a collection of talented wordsmiths and creatives, weaves together narratives that explore what it is to be Black in Aotearoa. This insightful and empowering zine highlights themes of representation, joy and interconnectedness, inviting readers to join in a celebration of resilience and unity. A pivotal moment in the zine’s narrative was the electrifying launch event. Filled with afrobeats and the infectious electric slide, the event epitomised the power of unity and celebration. It was a reminder that, as African and Afro-Caribbean individuals, we stand stronger when we come together.

For Black people in Aotearoa, the quest for representation and visibility has often felt like a ship turning at sea. In a society where diversity is not always adequately recognised, the zine showcases the rich tapestry of Black voices and experiences. It challenges the status quo by offering a space where the narratives of Black individuals can be shared, celebrated, and amplified. As these narratives intertwine with the historical and cultural threads of Aotearoa, the zine becomes a compass guiding us towards a more inclusive and harmonious future, where every voice finds its rightful place in the narrative of this land.

The zine goes beyond merely representing Black individuals; it shatters stereotypes and dispels misconceptions surrounding the community. By presenting a diverse array of stories, the zine underscores the fact that the Black experience is not monolithic, but multifaceted and rich with unique perspectives.In doing so, it fosters understanding and empathy, bridging gaps of ignorance and cultivating a sense of unity among readers who begin to see the shared humanity that transcends the boundaries of culture, ethnicity, and background. This collective celebration of complexity opens doors to conversations that challenge preconceived notions and encourages a deeper exploration of the intricate layers that make up the tapestry of African life in Aotearoa.

Takunda Muzondiwa’s powerful work ‘A Missionary Falls in Love with a Coloniser’ reflects on the Black experience. Set amidst the vivid backdrop of 19th-century Zimbabwe, this poignant tale unveils the intricate romance between a devoted missionary and a determined coloniser. Narrated through the eyes of their prospective daughter, the story delves into her journey marked by unique challenges and experiences. As she navigates a world shaped by contrasting cultures, her journey becomes a testament to the teachings inherited from her unconventional upbringing, offering poignant insights into love, identity, and the complexities of a changing world. The statement below encapsulates the complex emotions and struggles that Black individuals may encounter:

Zine editors Bareeka Vrede and Acacia Cochise speaking at Black to the Future launch event. Photo courtesy of Black Creatives Aotearoa.

Black absorbs all colours like they are something to be held close. To be ashamed of, to be afraid of. Because when you are made a target for both who you love and where you come from: The body turns into a minefield of dichotomies.

The burden of historical prejudice and discrimination can create conflicting feelings about one’s own identity and worth. The question of learning to love one’s body while it houses such profound challenges is poignant, and represents the ongoing journey of self-acceptance and healing. In a world that often tries to define and confine, the resilience and courage of individuals like the protagonist in Muzondiwa's story remind us that every step towards embracing one's heritage and forging connections across divides is a triumph against the forces that seek to separate us.

Trusting our bodies and somatic experiences can be a daunting task, especially when we have been conditioned to suppress emotions and bury our traumas deep within our fascia. However, Takunda’s words remind us that our bodies hold truths that are essential for our authentic selves to emerge. By allowing our bodies to speak and embracing their inherent wisdom, we embark on a journey of reconnection and self-discovery. It is a reminder that no one exists in isolation; our energies are constantly intermingling with those around us. Finding solace in this realisation can bring comfort and a sense of belonging, as we recognise that we are part of a much greater whole. As Acacia Cochise beautifully expresses at the end of her piece ‘Indelible Impression’, “I am not alone. I am learning and unlearning as part of a much bigger wholeness, the mystery of a deeper love.”

Black to the Future zine. Photo courtesy of Black Creatives Aotearoa.

The journey from pain and trauma to love and laughter is another part of the Black experience that is explored in Black to the Future. Throughout history, Black communities worldwide have faced immense challenges and adversities. However, one remarkable aspect of our community is our unwavering ability to find joy even in the face of hardship. The zine serves as a testament to this resilience, showcasing stories of overcoming adversity and reclaiming joy. Diana Simumpande, a Zambian-born photographer based in Tamaki Makaurau, captures the essence of Black joy through her series of effervescent and sunny photos featuring a few Black creatives. These captivating images depict bluebird skies, rich brown pigments, and smiles that light up the page. The spirit of ‘Black joy’ is described as “the heartbeat and pulse of survival – a celebration of life and a testament to the resilience of Black souls”. It stands as a powerful and uplifting tribute to the strength and vibrancy of the Black community, showcasing the beauty and power of joy even amidst life’s challenges.

One of the most beautiful aspects of the Black experience is the interconnectedness between mind, body and community. Our relationship with the environment runs deep in our DNA, reminding us of our roots and our responsibility to nurture and protect the world around us. Daisy Remington’s powerful piece ‘Imagined Black Futures’ beautifully captures this notion, emphasising our instinctive knowledge of what nourishes our minds, bodies and souls.

Instinctually we know, all that we need to feed ourselves mind, body and soul is all around us. We only need to look… Nature is written in our DNA like the stars written in the sky. We came from the land, taken from the land and forced to work the land. Yet our destiny is to return, for our future is nothing without our past. Our lineage does not break no matter the attempts to hide our history.

Black to the Future contributors at launch event. Photo courtesy of Black Creatives Aotearoa.

This interconnectedness extends beyond our relationship with the environment; it also applies to the people within our community. When we come together, embracing unity and solidarity, we create a ripple effect of growth and positive change.

As we forge ahead, we recognise that unity is the key to addressing the challenges faced by our community. This zine encourages us to continue advocating for increased representation in media, arts and leadership roles so that Black voices can be heard and celebrated on a broader stage.

The journey from pain and trauma to love and laughter involves envisioning a future where every Black voice is recognised and valued. By challenging stereotypes and breaking barriers, we open up a world of possibilities for future generations. Embracing unity, we stand tall, resilient and empowered to create a future filled with love, laughter and joy for all.

Black to the Future is not just a zine; it is a celebration of the resilience, creativity and interconnectedness of the Black community in Aotearoa. Through representation and visibility, the zine opens doors for new narratives and perspectives to be heard. It reminds us of the power of joy and celebration in times of adversity, and how unity can transform pain into triumph. By showcasing the stories of individuals who have risen above systemic challenges, the zine serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration, encouraging the younger generations to embrace their heritage and face their own journeys with courage and determination. As these stories are shared and passed down, they become a legacy of strength, resilience, and the unwavering pursuit of a better future for all.

As we journey forward, it’s important to embrace unity and togetherness, supporting and uplifting one another. By celebrating diversity and breaking barriers, we pave the way for a future where every Black voice is celebrated, and the richness of our community is recognised and embraced. We are reminded of the power that art and creativity have to amplify marginalised voices and bring communities together. These creative expressions not only provide a space for representation but also pave the way for a future where Black voices are heard, valued and uplifted. Through this collective celebration of diversity, resilience and interconnectedness, we can shape a future that is brimming with love, laughter and joy for all.

Black to the Future will be available online soon at the Black Creatives Aotearoa (BCA) website. This accessibility ensures that the message of Black joy can reach a wider audience, spreading its positive and empowering impact far beyond the physical boundaries of the launch event.

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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