Nubiamancy: Scoping Black Magic Through Art with Asante Massawa

If you’re looking for a one-stop shop for brilliant art that’s seasoned with black/African spice, Nubiamancy is it. It is an online goldmine that promotes some of the most amazing art depicting sci-fi, fantasy, mysticism and horror from and for a black/African perspective.

Nubiamancy aims to inspire creativity – to showcase works based on African mysticism and alternative forms of Afrocentricity – and to promote creators such as La’Vata E. O’NealGbenle Maverick, Venus BambisaSetor Fiadzigbey, Marcus Williams and more, who are spreading these sci-fi narratives through their creations.

Witch of the Mountain by Venus Bambisa

Nubiamancy has flourished into one of the largest online collection of black/African fantasy and science fictional digital art and photos through masterful curation and compelling social media. The online collection boasts impressive Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook pages that will leave you glued in awe!

We got in touch with Asante Massawa, the brains behind Nubimancy to understand what Nubiamancy is, talk Afrofuturism, African magic and his recent GoFundMe campaign we should all get behind.

Two boys scanning their environment with sci-fi tech. Featured on Nubiamancy
Lost by  Setor Fiadzigbey

First up, what does Nubiamancy mean? We recognise Nubia as a place and guess that mancy has to do with divination. That translates into African metaphysics or as Squid Mag and the ACCRA[dot]ALT collective like to call it, African Electronics.

AM: Nubiamancy is a portmanteau of “Nubia” and the suffix “mancy“. Nubia is one of the earliest ancient civilisations in African history. The word Nubian has become a synonym of sorts for black people in general. The suffix “mancy” has to do with having skill or expertise at something; such as with the words pyromancy (to be skilled with fire) or necromancy (having expertise in summoning the dead). The name Nubiamancy basically translates to black magic or black creativity. It is a name I came up with to describe any sci-fi, fantasy or horror content that focuses on or features people of African descent. I choose to call it Nubiamancy instead of black sci-fi or black fantasy.

Masked creature eating a mango as seen on Nubiamancy.
You Will Certainly Not Die by Salim Busuru (Avandu)

How relevant do you think Afrofuturism is to the African psyche; should it be a niche or should it be mainstream?

AM: Fantasy & Sci-fi in the global black community is still very fringe. Most of us are very casual fans of the genre and will go see X-Men, Matrix, LOTR, Harry Potter, and watch Game of Thrones, Heroes, Westworld, and so on. But when it comes to actually being a “nerd” of those genres, many of us arent. Partly because much of the stuff in those avenues don’t cater to us, and aren’t written or filmed with us in mind. With Nubiamancy and our shift into film, I’m hoping to normalise black faces in fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. We have a long way to go, but it’s getting there.

There is a deliberate focus on African mysticism and Afrofuturism. What informs this tunnel vision?

AM: Afrofuturism doesn’t really describe most of what I post because it has a very specific and sometimes confusing meaning to it. I’ve recently stopped using this term because I don’t want to dilute the meaning of it from its original definition created by the people who came up with it. But a lot of what is posted is definitely inspired by African-based mysticism: Kemetic, Ifa, Akan, Vodun, Voodoo, Candomble, etc.

Much of the fantasy literature and entertainment out right now (Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Lord Of The Rings) are based on Eurocentric folklore, mysticism and stories. Africa and the diaspora have a lot of folklore that has not been tapped into on the scale of any of those big name properties.  We are now seeing a shift, however because I know many writers, illustrators and filmmakers, who are working to tap into the wealth of African mysticism at our disposal. Nubiamancy is a part of that shift.

Black elf riding a flying (commodo) dragon. Art by Marcus Williams as seen on Nubiamancy.
Fantasy Elf by Marcus Williams

How do you do it, how does it work? Do artists send their art over to you or do you actively pursue them? Also, what’re your criteria for selecting work?

AM: In the early days of my site, I found most of the art on art websites such as Behance, CGHub, DeviantArt, ArtStation, Pixiv, Drawcrowd, and then on social media sites like Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. I save the art, post it when possible, credit the artist with a tag of their page (if possible). I am now friends on Facebook and Instagram with many of the artists, so now I get direct submissions from them sometimes, but I mostly find the art myself. Also, I look for high-quality work of any medium. The weirder, the more unique, the better.

You put out a minimum of 5 posts per day. How are you able to curate that much content on a daily basis? What other jobs do you have?

AM: I won’t go into detail about what pays the bills for now because it is obviously not my career vocation since I’m moving into film. But for a while, I was working 80 hours a week to both pay my bills and save money. I post the art I curate on my lunch breaks, in my car when it’s parked, at home on my desktop or phone, while I’m in movie theatres or eating at a restaurant. Lol. I find the time.

The name Nubiamancy basically translates to black magic or black creativity. It is a name I came up with to describe any sci-fi, fantasy or horror content that focuses on or features people of African descent. I choose to call it Nubiamancy instead of black sci-fi or black fantasy.

Strange Door in the Woods by Godwin Akpan

You’ve been running Nubiamancy since 2013. What keeps you going? Also, what difficulties have you faced?

AM: One of my biggest difficulties is posting such a wide range of content, some of which offends different segments of the global “black community”. Conscious types or Hoteps don’t want me to post content that features interracial couples and homosexuality. Feminists don’t want me to post black women in any sexual connotation or nudity. Christians don’t want to see nudity either, nor any horror and voodoo posts because, to them, it’s demonic. Natural hair enthusiasts think I shouldn’t post any content with straight-haired black women.

Almost everything I post offends some segment of our community. I’ve learned to read their criticisms over the years.  At the same time too, I let them know that their choosing to be offended will not cause me to adjust what I post just to please one segment of black culture. My mantra is always: Nubiamancy is for everyone, and it will always remain that way. For everyone one post they see that offends, there are thousands more that don’t if they would scroll down to see them. But, negativity is a very potent drug, and some have left my page because they chose to focus on 1 or 2% of the content.

God of Wrath as seen on Nubiamancy
God of Wrath by Venus Bambisa

At over 66 thousand followers on Instagram alone, what are some plans to expand and/or monetize?

AM: There are tonnes of plans in the works but I’m taking things one step at a time. The first venture I’m trying to get off the ground is short films based on some of the content posted on the page. That will eventually transition into full-length films down the road.  I’d also like to start a social media space for black-featured fantasy & sci-fi art akin to DeviantArt, ArtStation, and Pixiv. I also want to create a new style of music with all this imagery in mind because once these films start being made, regular hip-hop/RnB/reggae/afrobeat music won’t really create the ambience needed for fantasy/horror/sci-fi settings. So yeah….lots of plans but one step at a time.

Nubiamancy is for everyone – Asante Massawa

Killing Fields. Photo by Stefan Gesell

You recently launched a GoFundMe campaign. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

AM: The GoFundMe campaign is part one of a 4-part fundraising process. As I mentioned earlier, I would like to start making short films based on some of the artwork and photography that’s posted, and working along with the writers, artists, and photographers who created them. The campaign will be on for about two months.

What’s your advice to artists on the come up looking to tap into the power of social media considering how much traffic you attract on Instagram compared to other platforms? 

AM: My advice to those artists is to focus on creating great content, and not so much on likes and followers. Focusing on the latter will stagnate your creativity and originality because then you’ll just be drawing popular stuff to get followers instead of illustrating stuff no one has ever seen before. If social media fame is what your goal is then drawing famous Hollywood, anime, and superhero characters are the way to go, but I pay more attention to the ones who show me something new.

Black man standing, a cloud of black dust behind him described as Pan and seen on Nubiamancy
Pan modelled by Micah BlackLight

What’s your team like (do you run solo), what’s a day in the life of Nubiamancy like? Also, what would you like to see in terms of African creativity and who are some of your favourite artists?

AM: I am the team. Lol. No one else works with me for now. But obviously, as this venture grows I’ll definitely need folks working with me. As for a day in the life of this platform, not really much to tell. I upload content at work, on the road, while shopping, on vacations, in between sex, you name it. Lol.

Cover of Eru by Tobe and Oz Ezeogu. Published by Comic Republic

Finally, African comics (games and animation), what are your thoughts – in terms of keeping it fresh and its sustainable future?

AM: Some of my favourite artists are: LaVata Oneal; Dracanima (Ian Wade); Dan MuwanigwaGodwin Akpan; Jainai Jeffries; Rhayven Jones; Racheal Scotland; James Starr King; Geneva Benton and her sister Dannie Benton; Brenoch Adams; Stefan Gesell; Aaron Mosby; Mike Toney; Venus Bambisa; Jomaro Kindred; Dhenzel Obeng; Robert Chew; Didier Nguyen. Too many to name.

My advice to African comic creators is to not be afraid to be weird, and dark; two things a lot of “black” content is severely lacking. We need more dark fantasy & horror for the motherland & the diaspora, and I am here to share it.

The cosmos bless all creators and Asante Massawa for curating their work. It’s also important to recognise the work other people are doing to showcase the beauty of African creativity. Special appreciation goes to MESHKugali, ComExposed, The Blerd Gurl, Farabale Africa, Konbini, KaboomPaula Callus, ACCRA[dot]ALT, and all the wonderful people promoting African digital art to the world.

Want more of Asante Massawa and Nubimancy? Listen to this podcast he co-hosted with our friends at Kugali. Don’t forget to back Nubiamancy’s GoFundMe Campaign as well; you can support for as little as $10.

Squirt Creativity.

Interview by Kadi Yao Tay.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Nubiamancy: Scoping Black Magic Through Art with Asante Massawa

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s