So people will often ask me “What’s Afropunk” about the Matan R-2 or the Ida mechs. Let’s talk about, shall we? But first, let’s establish two big things about modern vehicles and mecha. Tanks are for the majority Eurocentric. And mecha for the most part are majority Japanese in origin.
The Modern Tank Problem
The first thing you need to realize when it comes to vehicles is that one of the most common forms, tanks, are absolutely dripping in Eurocentrism. From top to bottom, and this is never more apparent than when you’re looking for information.
When you look up tanks on the internet the first thing you come across is the M1A- Abrams tank. In fact, that’s the first thing you see if google the word tanks. If you click on the images, you see more of the same thing. While sure, it’s one of the most produced tanks in the world, it’s a bit surprising to see just how dominant it is in search rankings.
Which while being one of the biggest tanks is not the ONLY tank around. I can understand that the overall use of the tank and where it was used has some to do with it, but it’s still an overweight representation.
Especially since there are other tanks from around the world that don’t get highlighted much. For example, this is the Egyptian Ramses II and a South African tank.
Notice the small design differences? The different flair and colors? Those things do change around the world and show up in even war vehicles. Sometimes it’s because of the environment, and other times it’s cultural. Either way, even something like a tank can be different around the world.
The Matan R-2 is loosely based on the Egyptian Ramses II. Now on to mechs.
Origins of Mecha in Japan
Mechs are largely based on Gundams which is Japanese by design. They’re based on samurai armor and the creator of the original Gundam said it himself.
“So what I proposed for the Gundam was basically a samurai. So the head had a chonmage at the top with a face and a maedate, in the form of a V-fin. It was also meant to be 18-meters tall and as such the face and a mouth was a little bit strange, so we put a mask over the mouth.”Excerpt from “Kunio Okawara, The Man Who Designed ‘Gundam’ And Created The Profession Of Mechanical Design”
When you look at a Gundam and a samurai helmet side by side it’s pretty clear.
Those are things I keep in mind when I design this kind of stuff for Swordsfall. I think sometimes people like to assume that tech is neutral in tone but it is definitely not. Other inventions, especially those by underdeveloped countries get ignored by history. And oftentimes ascribed as the achievements of another, larger culture.
The Afropunk Mecha
When I decided to do my own mech and vehicles in Swordsfall I kept this in mind. I had to critically look at things that we take for granted and examine whether it was neutral or belonged to another culture.
And then I’d think to myself, “How can I Swordsfall this? How can I Afropunk it?”. The first thing I focused on for the Ida was changing the face design to being based on African imagery instead.
I think about that underlying design philosophy and ask myself if a fictional future with a foundation of pre-colonial Africa would have done it differently and if so, how? Then incorporate African lore and armor and looks into the creation.
THAT’S the Afropunk part.