Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room, like any of The Met’s period rooms, is a fabrication of a domestic space that assembles furnishings and objects to create a fiction of authenticity. Rather than affirm a fixed moment in time, however, this structure reimagines the immersive experience of the period room by embracing the African diasporic belief that the past, present, and future are interconnected.
Join us for a virtual tour of this exhibition whose narrative is generated by the real, lived history of Seneca Village, a vibrant community founded predominantly by free Black tenants and landowners that flourished from the 1820s to the 1850s just a few hundred yards west of The Met’s current site. In 1857, the City of New York destroyed Seneca Village, using eminent domain to seize land for the construction of Central Park, displacing its residents and leaving only the barest traces of the community behind. Acknowledging that injustice, the exhibition asks: What if this community had the opportunity to grow and thrive? Powered by Afrofuturism—the inspirational, creative mode that centers Black imagination and self-determination—the exhibition transforms a 19th-century domestic interior into a speculative future home for Seneca Village residents, only one proposition for what might have been had the community been allowed to thrive into the present and beyond.
In keeping with the collaborative spirit of Afrofuturism, The Met’s curatorial team worked with lead curator Hannah Beachler to envision and design the space with consulting curator Michelle Commander. Since 2019, the group has engaged numerous creative and intellectual partners to infuse the installation with additional ideas and perspectives. At a vital intersection at the heart of the Museum, this project opens a space for yet more histories to be told that look toward a more resilient future.
The exhibition is made possible by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation and the Director’s Fund.
Additional support is provided by Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne and the Terra Foundation for American Art.
The Met’s quarterly Bulletin program is supported in part by the Lila Acheson Wallace Fund for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, established by the cofounder of Reader’s Digest.
Questions? Contact us by email or by phone at 212-570-3755.
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Image: Roberto Lugo, Queen Abolition, 2021. Digital illustration.