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Still via YouTube

daniel obasi's fashion film explores being 'alien' in nigeria

Amira Rasool

The photographers afrofuturistic short, 'An Alien in Town' illuminates how African fashion and culture are perceived by foreigners.

Still via YouTube

Over recent years, economists and politicians have spoken a great deal about the promise of Africa’s future. Yet, despite the rhetoric used to describe the imminent shifts in infrastructure and industrialization, noticeably absent from these accounts are visuals that paint a picture of how this new Africa will look. Recognizing this void in creativity, Nigerian stylist, photographer, and artistic director, Daniel Obasi, created An Alien in Town, a fashion film depicting his vision of a futuristic Nigeria.

Obasi teamed up with African fashion brand Vlisco to create a short film influenced by afrofuturism — the popular creative genre that places black people directly in the midst of science fiction and futuristic works of art. An Alien in Town follows three subjects, two human and one alien, on a casual journey through Nigeria. On this adventure, the unnamed alien is plucked from Nigeria’s majestic rural outskirts by a well-dressed couple and invited to experience a day in the state of Lagos. Throughout the five-minute short, the displaced character manages to master the seemingly complex task of eating with a spoon and begins to digest the vastness of Lagos’ bustling streets.

Outfitted in Nigerian brands Tokyo James and Abiola Olusola, the true futuristic element of the film is the wardrobe of each character. Exclusive styles designed for Vlisco & Co’s collaborative series feature printed separates and vibrant, beaded accessories. Intertwined within the beautifully captured visual elements of style is an important message about how African fashion and culture are perceived by foreigners. The alien character symbolizes an outsider, who like so many people living beyond the borders of the continent, is not in touch with the realities of contemporary Africa. “It was really about building on the idea of having a stranger who has no idea what African fashion is or what it is like to be in Lagos,” said Obasi over email. “I wanted An Alien in Town to document that experience in a very simple everyday scenario that is completely relatable.”

Obasi’s decision to incorporate afrofuturism was inspired by his love for cult science fiction films like Avatar and Starship Troopers. “I grew up on Star Wars,” said Obasi. “It was the perfect synergy of different creatures from across the galaxy. George Lucas is still one of the best things to happen to cinema.” Like so many black artists who enjoy the boundaryless appeal of creating a unique new world based solely off of imagination, afrofuturism has been employed to create visions of the future, while still referencing the past. In Obasi’s depiction of a future Nigeria, he noticeably preserved the country’s natural landscapes, which in reality he hopes will remain symbols of beauty, and an integral part of Africa’s future.