Aotearoa Futurism
Sophie Yana Wilson
I'm trying to recall what it felt like to live in 2015. This year has eclipsed the memory somewhat.
Back then I was a music producer at RNZ churning out live music programmes and documentaries on classical music. It wasn't particularly creativemore formulaic and serving a small but loyal listenership. But my heart was in a different place.
Back in the RNZ studio, a colleague wanted to collaborate. Although I’d often produce other people’s shows, I had few shows to my own name. Off the top of my head I suggested we look into Juggalos. We connected with the community across NZ and ended up making a beautifully ornate programme about some obscure sub-culture. Like a Vice doco without the irony. It was because of this I was able to leap into Aotearoa Futurism with my next dear collaborator Dan Taipua.
Dan came to me with the idea and I went "oh yup". Next minute there was another beautiful and ornate programme. I don't have much memory of making it (see: eclipse) but I do remember the feeling of flow that happens when you're in the zone. The more I read about futurism the more I knew this was my story too.
Aotearoa Futurism was broadcast in December 2015, a month before I took redundancy from RNZ. Five years have passed and the show remains quietly viral. It's been referenced in academia and passed around through the networks to those who also share this story. To speak about futurism in Aotearoa has become Māori (normal) and I'm immensely proud to have been part of this haerenga.
~ Sophie Yana Wilson, November 2020
Aotearoa Futurism: Space Māori and Astronesians

The cover of Patea Maori Club’s Aku Raukura LP designed by Joe Wylie Photo: Joe Wylie

Part one

If Afrofuturism is where science fiction and technology meets popular culture of the African diaspora, could it be happening in Aotearoa too? In part one of Aotearoa Futurism: Space Māori and Astronesians, Sophie Wilson and Dan Taipua put this question to hip hop artist Che Fu, psychedelic rock guitarist and peace ambassador, Billy TK Sr, and his son, vocalist and guitarist Mara TK of Electric Wire Hustle, to find out whether they identify as 'space Māori'.

Space Māori, Astronesians, and South Pacific Futurists

My father longs for the streets of a city where people don’t sleep, and in my youth he left gifts for Tane Mahuta, 'Lord of the Forest'.
His latest origin story makes more sense than ever:
In the beginning, extra-terrestrials discovered planet Earth. While they were here they discovered the beauty of nature, but couldn’t adapt because they were spiritual forms. So they decided to build a machine to carry out their vision for what they saw on Earth. That machine was the human body.
When Vincent Wilson was a teenager in the late 1970s, he moved to Auckland from Samoa with his mother, sister and brother. A decade later, he was raising me between the swamp Kauri forests of Northland, and the stereo.
The goal for us is to find those extra-terrestrials. They created us so we could trace the roots of where we come from. It’s something I can believe in. Something greater than myself that keeps me connected to myself.
I am the result of these stories, and a brown nerd. Some of my friends are brown nerds too, like Daniel Taipua. 
Dan is a media analyst both on and off the clock. He, like We, receive media at the speed of light. Equally, the latest technology and our immemorial histories are things to rejoice in. And we think Mana Vautier is a skux.
Over the past few years, Dan has woven these words into one kete: Space Māori, Astronesians, Polyfuturists, South Pacific Futurists. This kete, we’ve decided, describes Māori who imagine, create or are receptive to ideas that play with, and sometimes even obliterate, the boundaries of technology and time.
Sometimes it manifests in an album cover depicting a stylised Maui with an electrified sound cable fishing up chrome-plated whare by its tekoteko (centre pole carving), which itself is a chrome-dipped robot. Other times, it metamorphs whakapapa into a 3D virtual game.
“What is it about writing?”, Charlie Rose in 2000 asked African-American science fiction writer Octavia Butler.
You’ve got to create your own worlds. You’ve got to write yourself in.
Butler evenly laid out this tohu, this key to understanding the ahua, the existential makeup of her novels. It could easily be a tohu for Aotearoa Futurism, a term Dan and I have remixed from a word created seven years earlier in Mark Dery’s essay “Black to the Future”, which drew an imperative line between African-American writers, Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delaney, Steve Barnes and Charles Saunders.
Speculative fiction that treats African American themes and addresses African American concerns in the context of twentieth century technoculture—and more generally, African-American signification that appropriates images of technology and a prosthetically enhanced future—might, for want of a better term, be called “Afrofuturism”.
Mark Dery, Black to the Future.
Today there are Afrofuturist music festivals that feature or publicly discuss artists like Sun Ra, Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton, Derrick May, Missy Elliott. And earlier this year, Albert Wendt and Karlo Mila attended an Indigenous Science Fiction conference in Hawai’i.
This discourse presents questions never before asked in Aotearoa: If this is going on in the States, is it going on at home? If it is, what would it look like? And can it legitimise my dad’s crazy alien stories?

~ Sophie Yana Wilson, 2015

Image from Lisa Reihana’s In Pursuit of Venus (infected) Photo: Lisa Reihana


Part two

In the first episode of Aotearoa Futurism: Space Māori and Astronesians, we heard from artists like Che Fu, Mara TK and his father, Billy TK Snr, who reflected on their use of science fiction and technology as musicians of indigenous and Pacific diaspora. In part two our hosts Sophie Wilson and Dan Taipua meet Māori and Pasefika artists who are not only modernising, but futurising the image of contemporary Māori and Pacific diaspora in Aotearoa, beginning with the teen thrash-metal band, Alien Weaponry; MC turned game developer, Billy Herotech, through to writer Dr Karlo Mila, and multimedia artists Lisa Reihana and Coco Solid.
Sophie Yana Wilson (b. 1986, Auckland) has ancestors across the motu from Rakiura to Te Tai Tokerau, Hamoa and further over in Ingarangi. Since 2003 her artistic practices have shifted between cello playing, radio documentary production and DJing.

Aotearoa Futurism: Space Māori and Astronesians first aired on RNZ in 2015. Audio, text and images from the series have been repurposed with the permission of RNZ. For the full track listing click here to visit the original series on the RNZ website.

©Lieu Journal 2020