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Breaking out of the spiral of the Anthropocene

Bayo Akomolafe im Re_Generation-Talk

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As an author, speaker and Yoruba philosopher, Dr. Bayo Akomolafe is best known for his book „These Wilds Beyond Our Fences,“ which consists of letters to his young daughter reflecting on living conditions on the crisis-ridden planet Earth. In March, Akomolafe, born in 1983 in western Nigeria, was our guest with his lecture „Welcome To The Afrocene“ and a subsequent conversation with Re_Generation curator Siegmar Zacharias.

His concept of the „Afrocene“ is a decolonial counter-draft to the Anthropocene – the man-made age of industrialization. In his approach, Akomolafe describes how, in the face of global warming, environmental catastrophes and species extinction, humanity repeatedly invokes the hope of being able to reverse the disastrous consequences of modern civilization – for example, through further technological progress. But every supposed „solution“ basically reproduces the same destructive principle that underlies man-made disasters.

Humanity, as Akomolafe describes it, is in a „death circle“ that can also be observed in ants. The insects move in the form of a circular colony – blind and controlled by the pheromones of their conspecifics. Breaking out of this circle is virtually impossible; the repetition of what the conspecifics do and have done is the basis of the activity of all ants in the circle. The rare moments when an ant manages to break away from its „death circle“ are based on infection. Akomolafe impressively describes how some ants are infected by a special type of fungus that takes over their organs and behavior by building a new organism within the ant.

Breaking out of a perpetual spiral by infection? In his Re_Generation lecture, the philosopher also applies this model of thought to humanity: Is it even possible for humanity to stop the spiral of industry, environmental destruction and global warming that it has created – if all these problems are, after all, created by humanity itself? Akomolafe believes: Yes – and by infection, just like ants. Connecting with other species and giving space to grief over the changes and losses that come with it – that’s one way to escape the cycle and make real change even conceivable, he says: Welcome to the Afrocene!