Sun Ra

Filmstill by: John Coney: Space is the Place, USA, 1974. © North American Star System Production & Rapid Eye Movies

Sun Ra (1914 – 93) was one of the most important African-American jazz musicians. At the same time, he was a walking Gesamtkunstwerk (a synthesis of the arts) who sought to elude identitarian attributions, starting with his name. The idea that his artistic freedom could be limited from the outside was anathema to him, and so he justified his musical mission with a visit to Saturn, where the extraterrestrials had instructed him accordingly. As a pioneer of Afrofuturism, Sun Ra took science fiction into his aesthetic service as well as elements of a pre-colonial imagination, and here in particular the high culture of ancient Egypt which the Afrocentrists revered as an African antiquity.