TH: Both In the Black Fantastic and Africa State of Mind explore links between the physical and the psychological, between bodily experiences and mental spaces. What interests you the most about this parallel?
EE: I’m fascinated by the terrain that the poet Elizabeth Alexander calls ‘the black interior’ – ‘a metaphysical space beyond the black public everyday’, governed by the ‘power and wild imagination that black people ourselves know we possess’.
TH: Your definition of the Black fantastic includes a ‘sincere, not sardonic’ stance towards African beliefs and cultural practices. Why is this an important distinction to be made?
EE: I tend to think that African beliefs and cultures are worthy of serious consideration as sources of knowledge and creative inspiration. We’re used to dismissing beliefs systems such as Vodou for example as primitive and superstitious. But many artists and writers have found great inspiration in such beliefs. For instance, the author and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston travelled to Haiti in the 1930s, where she was initiated into Vodou. Undergoing secret rites, she had a vision in which, as she wrote, ‘I strode across the heavens with lightning flashing from under my feet, and grumbling thunder following in my wake.’