DO BLACK PEOPLE REALLY DO THIS STUFF? First, Steamfunk; Now, Rococoa!

Photo from the Toussaint L'Ouverture Mini-Series, France Television.

Photo from the Toussaint L’Ouverture Mini-Series, France Television.

During last year’s wildly popular Mahogany Masquerade: An Evening of Steamfunk and Film, I inquired about the era that sits between Sword and Soul – the subgenre of African-inspired epic and heroic fantasy that is usually set before colonization – and Steamfunk, which normally takes place between 1837 and 1901. I asked if anyone had a name for that time because it is a time that fascinates me – a time of revolution (in particular, the Haitian Revolution); a time of pirates and swashbucklers; a time of reverence for art and science.

No one at the event had a name for the era, however, everyone agreed the time possessed that “cool factor” found in Steamfunk and Sword and Soul.

Curious by nature and a researcher by choice, I immediately began my quest of discovery, fueled by my determination to find a name for this era that fascinated me so.

After a brief bit of research, I stumbled upon Rococo…and, to my surprise, Rococopunk.

Rococo is derived from the French word rocaille, originally meaning the bits of rocky decoration sometimes found in 16th-century architectural schemes. It was first used in its modern sense around 1800, at about the same time as baroque, and, like baroque, was initially a pejorative term.

The earliest rococo forms appeared around 1700 at Versailles and its surrounding châteaux as a reaction against the oppressive formality of French classical-baroque in those buildings. In 1701 a suite of rooms at Versailles, including the king’s bedroom, was redecorated in a new, lighter, and more graceful style by the royal designer, Pierre Lepautre (1648-1716).

In the world of painting, Rococo style is characterized by delicate colors, many decorative details, and a graceful and intimate mood. Similarly, music in the Rococo style is homophonic and light in texture, melodic, and elaborately ornamented. In France, the term for this was style galant (gallant or elegant style) and, in Germany, empfindsamer stil (sensitive style). François Couperin, in France, and two of the sons of Johann Sebastian Bach – Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Johann Christian Bach – in Germany, were important composers of music in the Rococo style.

From the Film "Brotherhood of the Wolf". Distributed by Universal Studios.

From the Film “Brotherhood of the Wolf”. Distributed by Universal Studios.

Rococopunk is – like Dieselpunk – a sibling of Steampunk, set in the earlier Renaissance era, primarily in the high-class French community of the time. Participants in this movement wear outlandish makeup and hairstyles and sport bold, brightly colored clothing. Think Amadeus, Pirates of the Caribbean, or The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. For darker Rococopunk – think Last of the Mohicans, Perfume: The Story of A Murderer, Brotherhood of the Wolf, or Sleepy Hollow.

Okay, I had a name for the era. Now, I needed to come up with a name to define the Black expression of Rococopunk; a name to define the subgenre so that – as author and publisher Milton Davis says of Steamfunk and Sword and Soul – “when you hear or read ‘Steamfunk’ or ‘Sword and Soul’, you know exactly what you’re getting.”

Modeling and Costume fabrication by Lee Camara (aka Fev): http://fevereon.deviantart.com/

Modeling and Costume fabrication by Lee Camara (aka Fev): http://fevereon.deviantart.com/

Before I could come up with a name myself, the brilliant Briaan L. Barron, artist and owner of Bri-Dimensional Images and recent graduate from Sarah Lawrence College, did it for me with her release of the animated documentary, Steamfunk and Rococoa: A Black Victorian Fantasy. While there is not much talk of Rococo or Rococopunk in the documentary – it is mainly about Steampunk and Steamfunk and features Diana Pho of Beyond Victoriana and Yours Truly – the spelling, Rococoa, was perfect!

Thanks, Briaan!

So, with a smile on my face, I now sit down to write Rococoa stories. Stories I will enjoy writing and hopefully you will enjoy reading.

Steamfunk now has a sibling.

Yes!

About Balogun

Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the films, A Single Link and Rite of Passage: Initiation. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk – a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at http://chroniclesofharriet.com/. He is author of three novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the Urban Science Fiction saga, Redeemer; and the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika and contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk. At present, Balogun is directing and fight choreographing the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which he wrote based on the short story, Rite of Passage, by author Milton Davis. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk –a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at http://chroniclesofharriet.com/. He is author of three novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the science fiction gangster saga, Redeemer; and the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika. He is also co-creator of the soon-to-be-released role-playing game, Ki-Khanga™: The Sword & Soul RPG. Balogun is Master Instructor of the Afrikan Martial Arts Institute and Technical Director of Martial Ministries of America, a non-profit organization that serves at-risk youth. He is also a traditional African priest, actor and conflict resolution specialist, who works and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, his seven daughters and his son.

23 responses »

  1. uhuruhouston says:

    Of course they are, there were Africans serving on Pirate ships, Naval Frigates, etc.

  2. Jessica Burde says:

    Awesome. Looking forward to reading what you come up with.

  3. Owen says:

    Obviously you’ve never heard of A Count Named Slick Brass. And while you are at it, google “Steampunk Gangnam Style”. If you dare.

    • Balogun says:

      Of course I have heard of A Count Named Slick Brass…he is a good friend and his Steam-Funk is as cool as our Steamfunk. Though separate movements, we are sure to soon produce something together that is absolutely Funktastic! I dared when Steampunk Style first dropped and shared it all over cyberspace! :)

  4. We are heavily involved in this era and the shaping of it. Check out Alexandre Dumas, writer of “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers” and now there’s a book out about his father “The Black Count” (http://www.randomhouse.com/book/140278/the-black-count-by-tom-reiss) who was a real life swashbuckler (although that book is written by a white guy). The film “Toussaint L’Ouverture” is great and I saw it premier here in Miami with Jimmy Jean Louis, so if you have an opportunity, it’s a must see! Then check out Jimmy Jean Louis who voices a character in my project “The Beach Chronicles” http://thebeachchronicles. Happy to see us get into this period and any period really, our stories traverse all time periods, they’re just not told.

  5. Fujimoto says:

    A steamfunk sibling for every era! What will be next? Looking forward to where Rococoa will take you!

  6. […] Sword and Soul and Rococoa are subgenres of fiction, fashion and film that convey the heroes and history of Africa, […]

  7. srtorris says:

    Brotha, I do NOT usually do this out in public but I JUST wrote a blog, basically commenting on this topic. There are those who believe we DON’T do “this stuff” and there were some, not very flattering comments, made in that respect. I would love for you and some of our family to check out my recent blog JUST to listen to the video commentary I posted. Ooooh, and PLEASE, please feel free to comment! Man, I am so glad I met you and Thank You all.

    • Balogun says:

      Thanks, for pointing this out. I am convinced that this brother will one day be one of the biggest supporters of Sword & Soul once he knows we exist. He is certainly passionate. He just needs direction for all that energy. More proof that we just need to increase our visibility so people know there is more quality Black speculative fiction out there. :)

  8. […] many enthusiastic and creative participants come, dressed in their best Steamfunk, Dieselfunk and Rococoa costumes for an unforgettable night of cosplay, short films, engaging chats with other […]

  9. […] you will find discussions, photographs, fiction and articles on Steamfunk, Rococoa, great Black Authors, Black fandom, the craft of writing and Sword & […]

  10. […] Sunday, August 4, 2013, Yours Truly and the rest of the brilliant cast and crew of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage shot a short film that ties-in to the feature film, Rite of Passage: […]

  11. […] dressed in your best Rococoa, Steamfunk and Dieselfunk costumes as we enjoy Black Speculative Fiction short films and meet their […]

  12. […] of becoming a movement – especially with the upcoming Mahogany Masquerade, which will feature Steamfunk and Rococoa and the Black Caesar graphic novel, coming in 2014 from Yours Truly and the brilliant artist, […]

  13. […] your best Steamfunk, Dieselfunk and Rococoa gear and after the Mahogany Masquerade, parade with us over to the after party at the BQE […]

  14. […] with their brilliant Diversify Your Steampunk series. I’m a participant in the series, reppin’ Steamfunk, Dieselfunk and Rococoa and there are others before me with some fantastic stuff, too, so after you read this post, hop on […]

  15. […] write speculative fiction – mainly Steamfunk, Dieselfunk, Rococoa and Sword & […]

  16. […] also does not seem to be concerned with the past – the usual settings of Steamfunk, Sword and Soul and Rococoa – as it is defined as “Speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses […]

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