The Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival, has announced the line-up of its 2018 programme promising to transform Johannesburg into a celebration of technology, creativity and innovation from across the African continent. The full programme of activities began on 18 August and will run until 29 September 2018. Fak’ugesi, taking place at the Tshimologong Precinct, is sharing activities in 2018 with the Wits Art Museum and the Point of Order.
Tegan Bristow, Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival director, says that the 2018 theme ‘Tap your Afro Source Code’ centres on African visions of technology by tapping into the sources of African tradition and culture alongside technology, creativity and innovation: “This year we are exploring how local culture can move and change the future of technology. How would you understand and unpack the source code of your African identity?”
Bristow says that the 2018 Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival will fully explore the algorithms, patterns and fractals of Africa. In digital art, music, games, virtual reality, digital makers or the way you braid your hair: “Fak’ugesi acts as a platform that brings together diverse digital and technology sectors to collaborate and share skills in digital media and technology innovation.”
A highlight in this year’s Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival programme is a large collaboration with the Wits Art Museum in an exhibition project titled Digital Imaginaries: Premonition, the second leg of a three-city project, which started with Kër Thiossane and Afropixel Festival in Dakar, Senegal in May and will conclude at ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany in November 2018. The project, an initiative between social scientists and artists, imagines and critiques how globalised digital technology and systems have already, and will continue, to shape and shift African futures. The exhibition, now on at the Wits Art Museum was co-curated by Bristow.
Another highlight of the 2018 programme is the expanded Fak’ugesi Digital Africa Residency. Initially focused on bringing young aspiring digital artists together from the SADC region, this year includes further collaboration with Pro Helvetia, Johannesburg, to include digital artists from North Africa, South Asia and Switzerland. This extended approach will enable students to do a deep dive into the algorithms, patterns and fractals of their indigenous cultures.
Along with supporting young up-and-coming digital artists, Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival will be hosting two international media artists – Marc Lee, a Swiss artist supported by Pro Helvetia; and Brain House, a North American artist supported by the Watershed project. House explores the interdependent rhythms of the body, technology, and the environment. His background in both computer science and performance informs his research-based practice. Recent interests include artificial Intelligence, extractive industries, and urban rats. A collaboration between Fak’ugesi Festival and Watershed, this art/science programme, is brought to the festival by the Centre for Water Research and Development, WITS, Brown University and Providence RI.
2018 will see the launch of the Fak’ugesi Arcade concept, announcing the start of a new era in supporting African games and gaming developers. Bristow invites the regional gaming community to discuss how the festival can better support and help develop the game development community: “We want to better understand the needs and requirements, both as a platform and as a location for skills exchange and networking. The Fak’ugesi Arcade is partnering this year with Redbull Basement and Trace TV and will be rolled out in 2019.”
For a second year running, in partnership with Weheartbeat via Fak’ugesi Beats, a six-day beats lab residency will be running from 24 to 28 September. Curated by Weheartbeat, participants will embrace the 2018 Fak’ugesi theme, combining tradition with futurism. Bristow is excited about the programme and says that the outcome from these sessions will result in an EP release, available both digitally and on limited edition vinyl. The artists featured include: Potatohead People (Canada), S Fidelity (Switzerland), Zikomo (USA), Morena Leraba (Lesotho) and South African artists Bonj Mpanza and Hlasko.
Fak’ugesi Beats will open to the public through a series of workshops and master classes on 27 September 2018. This will culminate in the Fak’ugesi Beats Bloc Party and closing event on Saturday, 29 September 2018. The Fak’ugesi Beats programme is in partnership with Weheartbeat, Pro Helvetia, Red Bull Music and Ballantine’s Whiskey.
In its fifth year, Bristow says the Fak’ugesi Festival attracts over 6000 participants and is widely recognised for its important role supporting and developing African technology, creativity and culture: “The Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival is the only one of its kind in Africa and the only digital arts focused festival in Sub Saharan Africa. It has a very special location via which many young digital makers have launched their careers and have become prominent digital makers.”
She says the 2018 festival approach is a step back from the annual programming that will provide an opportunity for the programme directors to focus on the vision and development for the next five years. This will be supported by the Wits School of Art; the Digital Content Hub of Tshimologong Precinct in collaboration with Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) and the British Council ConnectZA.