Future Frontiers: Ontological Osmosis and Africanfuturist Cyborgs in Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon

Decolonising Speculative Fiction

Keywords: Africanfuturism, Nnedi Okorafor, ontological osmosis, Lagoon, frontier African, cyborg, gender, decolonisation


This article will examine Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon (2014) — a tale of shapeshifting aliens arriving off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria — as a quintessential Africanfuturist novel replete with disruptions of traditional science fiction tropes, transcorporeal mutations and endogenous African epistemologies. Our theoretical framework brings together two seemingly disparate thinkers whose work challenges essentialist identity politics: American ecocritical feminist, Donna Haraway, and Cameroonian anthropologist, Francis Nyamnjoh. Haraway’s (1985) myth of the cyborg resonates with Okorafor’s aliens and their dissolution of the boundaries separating human/machine, man/woman, and self/other. Nyamnjoh (2015:6-7) presents a similarly liminal figure in the ‘frontier African’ to whom ‘everyone and everything is malleable, flexible and blendable, from humans and their anatomies , to animals and plants, gods, ghosts and spirits’. Okorafor’s counter-hegemonic representations of gender and selfhood are inextricably interwoven into a decolonising literary project of ‘ ontological osmosis’ that transforms superficially ‘fixed’ markers of difference into permeable thresholds of becoming. These concepts reflect Okorafor ’s Africanfuturist goals, as we show through a detailed analysis of the alien ambassador, Ayodele, and other key characters. This article will also consider Okorafor’s allusions to Mami Wata (a feminine west African water deity or witch) in relation to the protean Ayodele. This analysis will underline Okorafor’s thematic concerns with the question of gender and its relationship with the broader ecological and cultural forces of this society.