One of the most innovative virtual reality exhibitions that the African continent has seen is to run at the Goethe-Institut in Johannesburg from 29 to 31 October.
Viewers will be able to step inside a number of 360-degree mini universes. African artists and filmmakers will also get the chance to engage with the new technology in a virtual reality workshop and create new footage.
From following a 12-year old Syrian refugee from a camp in Jordan in “Clouds Over Sidra” to joining a fantasy land of mutant creatures in “Kaiju Fury!” (both created by Gabo Arora and Chris Milk), the show entitled New Dimensions: A Virtual Reality Exhibition, the show promises to build a firm foundation for a pan-African multimedia platform for the continent. It is free and open to the public.
The project is part of the wider African Futures Festival, organised by the Goethe-Institut . African Futures and explores the continent’s engagement with ideas around the future through artistic expression in literature, fine arts, performance, music and film. The virtual reality show is curated by Ingrid Kopp and Steven Markowitz with further support from Blue Ice Docs and SDK Digital Lab.
In a closed workshop, the use of 360-degree audio-visual software accessed by viewers through state-of-the-art headsets will also be experimented with by well known film-makers, writers, animators and other artists from across Africa from 24 to 27 October 2015, before the exhibition opens.
The aim of the workshop is to deepen and expand the African footprint, according to the exhibition organisers – Big World Cinema and the Goethe Institut, who say that this will be followed up by the opportunity for participants to be commissioned to produce a piece in their country for exhibition across Africa and to showcase at various international festivals.
According to the organisers, virtual reality can be used to heal, escape, entertain, inform, enrich, inspire and educate its virtual inhabitants by transporting them into different worlds. Until now, the vast majority of such projects have been produced outside Africa and the narratives have largely been seen through Western eyes.
For example, at the exhibition, In Strangers with Patrick Watson (created by Felix Lajerunesse, Paul Raphael, Chris Lavis, Maciek Szczerbowski) viewers get to share intimate moments with the celebrated Canadian musician Patrick Watson at work in his studio. While in Way To Go (by Vincent Morisset) they can dance with their own (Western) destiny in an interactive voyage of self-discovery.
As Steven Markovitz explains, “the continent now runs the risk of falling behind unless it starts to innovate its own virtual reality experiences. It must start to nurture and promote its own truly unique journey in all its multi-pronged glory. We are therefore seeking not just to showcase virtual reality but to build VR capacity among its African writers, photographers, film-directors, poets – to create a vibrant platform for the continent.”
Taking part in the workshop from Kenya will be Ng’endo Mukii, an award-winning film director most well-known for her documentary Yellow Fever on African women’s ideals of beauty, collaborating with acclaimed 3D animator Andrew Kaggia from Nairobi, who has worked on numerous popular television shows.
Also participating from Kenya will be prominent film director Jim Chuchu, whose latest award-winning film Stories of Our Lives, was banned in his home country for “promoting homosexuality” but is soon to be screened in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
South Africa,will be represented by Bogosi Sekhukhuni, a renowned conceptual artist and creative director selected by the Mail and Guardian newspaper as one of the country’s Top 200 Young South Africans .
Paul Sika from the Ivory Coast,is going to fuse ground-breaking photography , filmmaking and digital techniques, collaborating with fellow Ivorian Brissi Ziagnon, a leading web and graphic designer artist and software designer.
From Ghana, Jonathan Dotse, an Afrofuturist and writer will be collaborating with photographer and film-maker Kabiru Seidu who says that his interest in the field of virtual reality stems from his desire to recreate African history and imagine possible futures. The two Ghanaian artists recently formed NubianVR, an Accra-based virtual reality studio which produced Pandora, their first 360 degree short film which is being showcased at the exhibition.
From Senegal, avant-garde fashion designer Selly Raby Kane, known for her unbridled visual creativity and artistic influences, will collaborate with Moustapha Diop, a leading 3D graphic illustrator with a background in animation and passion for artistic creativity.
“If you want to have any idea of the world that is coming, the world ahead of us look at Africa,” says Afropolitan author and critic Achille Mbembe.
While the future may not be ours to hold, who better to push the boundaries forward, than experimental artists across the continent whose unique expressions of culture and creation help to define, enrich and restore the complex reality that makes up African lives.
Africa gets broadband boost
ITU and Nexpedience, a supplier of proprietary point-to-multipoint broadband infrastructure, are partnering to bring broadband access to Africa.
Under the terms of the deal, Nexpedience will provide 180 new Expedience base stations worth USD 1 million, to be deployed in six nations across the continent. The first nation to benefit from the new infrastructure is Burundi, with deployments also planned for Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Mali, Rwanda and Swaziland.
Designed to withstand extreme meteorological conditions and capable of providing up to 32 kilometres of sector coverage, Nexpedience’s base stations have been specifically designed for rural deployment.
ITU’s Wireless Broadband Network in Africa project aims to develop and implement wireless broadband connectivity and applications that will provide free or low-cost digital access for schools, hospitals, and under-served populations in rural and remote areas Africa-wide.
At the signing of the agreement in Geneva, Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) emphasized the need to make developing countries part of the global broadband revolution: ‚”This partnership represents another important element in ITU’s efforts to bring broadband technology to the world even in the poorest nations. I am confident that this new partnership will accelerate broadband uptake right across the African continent, bringing the power of high-speed connectivity to users everywhere, from big cities to small villages.‚”
Kiriako Vergos, CEO of Nexpedience said: ‚”Giving access to broadband technology to underserved populations in Africa is of great importance to us. There are enormous benefits to be derived from a ‚’broadband-seed’ deployment strategy, and we decided to partner with ITU because we know that the organization has the team in place to get it done.‚”
ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Tour√© said the new agreement is a ‚”major step forward in getting Africa connected‚”. Dr Tour√© led the establishment of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010, which has the aim of putting broadband at the heart of the global development agenda.
Nokia backs tech hubs for developing world
Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev are collaborating with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America to act as scouts for local talent.
Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev, a global innovation program of the World Bank, have announced a collaboration with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America – a move that will empower these hubs to act as scouts and agents for local talent, fast-tracking their access to AppCampus funding.
AppCampus was established in 2012 as a mobile application accelerator program managed by Aalto University in Finland. With an 18 million euro joint investment between Microsoft and Nokia, the aim is to foster mobile application development on Windows Phone and any other Nokia platform.
The announcement earmarks part of that investment fund for twenty six awards per annum for the best mobile innovation ideas to be made via the mobile innovation hub network, starting with infoDev’s mobile application labs in South Africa, Kenya, Armenia and Vietnam, as well as mobile application laboratories in Egypt (TIEC), Nigeria (CC Hub) and Mexico. The value of each award ranges from 20,000 Euro (US$ 26,000) to 70,000 Euro (US$ 90,000) depending on the complexity of the solution or business model behind the idea.
‚”By working jointly with the mobile innovation hubs, we are able to connect more effectively with local developers in emerging markets and provide support in terms of funding, especially for locally relevant innovations,‚” says Pekka Sivonen, Head of AppCampus. ‚”Although the criteria to access the AppCampus funding remains the same, with ideas needing to be original, competitive and scalable, the advantage is faster processing and the mentorship provided by these innovation hubs.‚”
The hubs and mLabs will be responsible for scouting talent and vetting ideas to be submitted to the global pool. infoDev’s mLabs foster regional entrepreneurship, employment and competitiveness by providing open spaces where developers can find training, mentoring, technical expertise and access to financing. In a short time, mLab-supported startups have brought over 120 commercial apps to market The best new entries from this network will compete against each other each quarter for the available awards.
‚”Nokia, working closely with infoDev, has supported the establishment and operation of a number of mLabs across emerging markets in support of local developers,‚” says Jussi Hinkkanen, vice president corporate relations for Nokia Middle East and Africa. ‚”The AppCampus collaboration showcases our commitment to strengthening the growing mLab network around the world and infoDev’s vision of supporting emerging market entrepreneurs in conquering local, regional and global markets‚”.
The official launch of the program took place during the mobile stream at the Global Forum on Innovation & Technology Entrepreneurship in East London, South Africa, organized by infoDev and the South African Department of Science & Technology. A key theme of the Forum is how innovation can lead to high-growth entrepreneurship which creates sustainable jobs. Valerie D’Costa, infoDev’s Program Manager says, ‚”The AppCampus initiative fits with the philosophy of infoDev of supporting innovative entrepreneurs from developing countries. We want to support those who can excel with some level of mentorship, skills training and seed financing. We provide potential job-creators better access to markets, which is what we are all about.‚”