PSYCHOLOGY, SANKOFA AND SWORD & SOUL: Why We Need Fantasy and Folklore!


Ki Khanga 2Fantasy often takes  place  in  otherworldly settings – such as the planet Pandora,  in the film Avatar –  or a slightly different version of the world we  know, such as Nyumbani, in Charles R. Saunders’ incomparable Imaro series of novels. The  details  that  go  into  the  imagining  of  a fantastical  setting  allow  the  writer  to  both  ground  a narrative in reality and challenge the notions of that reality.

In Fantasy, the distractions of the mundane world are stripped away by the fantastical setting, and the remaining resemblances between the story world and our world are only those that really matter.

Fantasy stories do not explicate their authors’ philosophies; rather, they incarnate them and thereby put them to the test. If author Milton Davis’ readers find his seafaring Swahili prince, Changa Diop, beautiful, it is because Changa represents the high and noble in human nature that rings true, that persuades us, whether we realize it or not.

Too often, Fantasy stories are mistaken as diversions for the entertainment of children, stories that not only aren’t true, but could not possibly ever be true. Many Black people discourage their children from reading fantasy and certainly will not read it themselves because Fantasy dares to tell children to believe in fantastical things like wizards and monsters. Fantasy does not teach children that monsters exist…they already know that. Fantasy teaches them that monsters can be slain – a lesson we grown folks need to learn and internalize too!

State of Black Science Fiction PanelRecently, a few writing colleagues and I were guests at an annual festival that celebrates natural Black beauty, wellness and culture. We were invited to sit on a panel and discuss why Black people should read and write speculative fiction.

We were introduced by famed hip-hop artist and activist, Professor Griff of the famed Hip-Hop Group, Public Enemy (*sigh* yes, the same group to which Flavor Flav belongs), who spoke briefly before bringing us up.

When it was announced that we were discussing Fantasy and Science Fiction, the crowd of three hundred dwindled to twelve.

One of the authors was near tears and has since not shown up at any events where it is clear that a majority of Black people will be in attendance. She was shocked and hurt by the reaction of the festival’s attendees. She felt as if her own people had rejected her; perhaps even hated her for “selling out” to Fantasy and Science Fiction.

I was not shocked. These were “conscious” Black people and I know how so-called conscious Black people think, for I am one of them.

Ki Khanga 6“Conscious” Black people are quick to accuse something of being trivial and a distraction from the work of awakening the ignorant masses of our people. And, to many of them, fiction is as trivial as you can get.

Damn the fact that our ancestors were master storytellers and conveyed most life-lessons and values through fiction. In fact, most traditional African cultures still have their Djeli, Sanusi, Babalawo, Iyanifa, Houngan, Mambo, Bokonon and other griots – keepers of the culture and history. And these storytellers are revered.

Damn the fact that every corner in the Black community has its storytellers; every mosque; every church; every barbershop.

Damn the fact that many of the Fantasy stories told by authors such as Yours Truly, Milton Davis, Valjeanne Jeffers and, of course, Charles Saunders are written in the subgenre of Sword and Soul and by writing such stories, these authors are applying the African principle of Sankofa.

Ki Khanga 3Sankofa is an Akan word that means, “One must return to the past in order to move forward.”

The symbol of Sankofa is that of a bird whose head is faced in the opposite direction of its body. This illustrates the fact that even though the bird is advancing, it periodically makes it a point to examine / return to its past, since this is the only way for one to have a better future. 

Some also interpret Sankofa to mean, “No matter how far away one travels they must always return home.”

However Sankofa is interpreted, the basic and important meaning remains – your past is an important aspect of your future. So, in order to make the best of your future, you must visit your past.

Ki KhangaFantasy stories carry readers beyond the restrictions of time and space and promote a sense of mystery and transcendence, helping readers envision a better society where intelligence, courage, and compassion prevail.

They awaken higher ideals without preaching and show how the small and powerless can triumph through perseverance and patience.

Fantasy is perfect for Black people. Conscious, or otherwise.

Balogun Ojetade, author of the Sword and Soul novel, Once Upon A Time In Afrika and Milton J. Davis, publisher and author of the Meji and Changa’s Safari Sword & Soul series, have come together to create a world of mystery; a world of magic; a world of warriors and Gods of Light and Darkness.

I recommend you give Ki-Khanga: The Anthology a read and enjoy tales of our past – both dark and glorious – that offer an escape from our present and pathways to our future.

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, Rite of Passage: Initiation and Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster. 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 He is author of eight novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the Urban Science Fiction saga, Redeemer; the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika; a Fight Fiction, New Pulp novella, Fist of Afrika; the gritty, Urban Superhero series, A Single Link and Wrath of the Siafu; the two-fisted Dieselfunk tale, The Scythe and the “Choose-Your-Own-Destiny”-style Young Adult novel, The Keys. Balogun is also contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk. Finally, Balogun is the Director and Fight Choreographer of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which he wrote based on the short story, Rite of Passage, by author Milton Davis and co-author of the award winning screenplay, Ngolo. You can reach him on Facebook at; on Twitter @Baba_Balogun and on Tumblr at

16 responses »

  1. Wow.
    I gasped aloud when you described the 300 diminishing to 12, and my heart ached for that wounded woman who felt abandoned.

    I have recently taken up speech-making again, and all the topics close to my heart are like these: the importance of imagination, the applicability (the necessity!) of Story to life, and I don’t anticipate a great number of white folks are that interested either (though in my case I’ve got at least a tiny captive audience, and intend to do what I can).

    The trouble I see is that, not having grown-up in a stories-as-teaching environment, very few of these people have eyes to see the lessons on their own, and the natural subtly of good storytellers is not an obvious-enough bridge for them to cross to deeper meaning.

    And everyone remains lost, and separated by this vast canyon, when the bridge of Story is already present.

    So. disapointing.

    • Balogun says:

      Disappointing, inDEED. However, those who recognize how important the telling of good stories is, press onward. Thanks, so much, for your feedback! 🙂

    • Rev. Dan Ironwolf13 says:

      I’m shocked. Simply shocked by the lack of vision by the so called conscious community. You would think they’d be aware the of importance African presence in all forms of media. Maybe it would be advisable to reference MLK’s conversation with Nichelle Nichols about the importance of her role on Star Trek at the being of the next panel on this is subject.

  2. […] I invite you to free yourself from the Land of Nod…and flee to Ki-Khanga! […]

  3. […] and sheroes in the books and in the films I create. I will continue to push the Steamfunk and Sword & Soul movements – and Black speculative fiction, in general – with fellow authors, artists and […]

  4. […] bring your Steamfunk, Horror, Sword & Soul and other Speculative Fiction stories, poetry, rap, song or spoken word and rock the […]

  5. I gotta give this piece a standing ovation (you say a LOT in a short amount of words, and I can relate to so much of this). Matter of fact I used to separate myself from “conscious” Blacks, many of whom I were friends with because of all the close-mindedness. I remember having an “debate” with an ex years ago because he didn’t respect the fact that I wrote poetry and fiction. Cool. But he wanted to argue it’s unimportance, so I told him “so you only respect non-fiction?” and he said “yes, because it’s fact”.

    So I was like it’s fact because someone wrote it? Because of “empirical research”? No one ever talks about researchers bias, or checking sources, and methods when it comes to non-fiction (which I’ve also written…hell our blog posts are non-fiction! lol) but when it comes to fiction, all anyone can say is that it’s fake. And if it’s fantasy/sci-fi then you’re really tripping. But I know better than that. I value what’s valuable, not based on which “category” it may fall in. Besides, this same dude watched WWF all the time LOL.

    It’s not about him, but he was the most “militant” person I knew at the time. And that type of thinking just turns me off. I know I’m Black, I know I’m conscious, I know that I am spirit-led to write. I don’t need anyone’s validation of that fact.

    So I would have been one of the 12 that stayed…that’s a powerful number anyway. It may be hurtful at first, but sometimes less is more.

  6. jstueart says:

    Thanks to Afrofuturism, I came to your blog. Thank you for your articles on the importance of fantasy and science fiction. I’ve often found it, even as a geeky kid in school, to be a place where I could be taught how to be better in the world, where intelligence and ingenuity was respected, and where liberation and freedom from oppression was a main theme. Power and freedom and wisdom–everyone needs that growing up and yet so few of our cultures think of scifi as offering anything of value but escapism. Well, for a bullied kid, scifi and fantasy books offered hope. And if we can sneak messages of hope and power and freedom into our books as writers for the next set of readers, then maybe they too can stand stronger through stories.

  7. Yolande says:

    Thank you for being here.

  8. […] games and novels – and role playing games, such as Dungeons and Dragons, World of Warcraft and Ki-Khanga: The Sword & Soul Role-Playing Game are perfect avenues of escape from mundane and profane […]

  9. […] for stories for an anthology that would introduce the genre of Rococoa – the bridge between Sword & Soul and Steamfunk – to the world in a BIG […]

  10. […] am proud to announce that around the third week of March, 2016, another Sword and Soul novel – and the first one set in Ki Khanga, the world created by Yours Truly (Balogun […]

  11. […] our Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role Playing Game goal unlocks Ki Khanga: The Fighting Pits, the TRADING CARD GAME version of the tabletop role […]

  12. […] Ki Khanga is an African-inspired epic and heroic fantasy roleplaying game that uses regular playing cards to resolve conflicts and to achieve feats in a fun and dynamic way that keeps the action and drama moving. […]

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