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The future is not what it used to be2014, first exhibited at Johannesburg City Library, Johannesburg.

The future is not what it used to be lists all of the books in the Harold Strange Africana Library at the Johannesburg City Library with the word ‘future’ in their titles. Every page of this A1 size book displays the year of publication and title of one of the 138 books listed, in chronological order (starting in 1849 and ending in 2012).


This leather bound book, titled on the cover in gold lettering, references the large atlases that are lying haphazardly on tables in the Africana Library. The physical size (841mm x 594mm) of the pages facilitates a slow, laborious turning of pages, alluding to the weight of history or a passing of time.

The titles and dates of publication act as a narrative, telling the story of how conceptions of the future at any given moment are much more indicative of the moods, ambitions and fears of that present, rather than that of the imagined future that they project. The book provides a historical view into conceptions of the future in Africa.

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