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NFVF strengthens its ties with France to support SA’s animation industry

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

South Africa’s budding animation talent made their way to the French lakeside town of Annecy to participate in the 43rd edition of the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and Mifa Market from 10 to 15 June 2019.

The students were part of the NFVF Student Mentorship Programme, held in partnership with Animation South Africa, the Department of Trade and Industry, KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission and the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct.

Joy Mawela, head of Industry Development and Promotions at the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), said: “The student mentorship programme is one of our training and education strategic plans, and the Annecy initiative was created to give an opportunity to animation students to advance their skills, build competitiveness and exposure and showcase their talent to the international animation industry.”

Heeding the call

The journey to Annecy began when the NFVF announced a nationwide competition, calling for final-year animation students to submit character designs inspired by lead characters from South African films.

“The call was released in April, and the submissions received were overwhelming,” says Mawela. “The quality of entries we received was a clear reflection that the South African animation industry is set to soar to greater heights.”

A large number of entries were submitted by students from The Animation School, including Claudia E’Silva. “I received numerous emails notifying me of the competition and my lecturer announced it to the entire class. My inspiration to enter was the Annecy Festival itself. Since I learnt about it in first year, it has been my goal to attend. Having been given this opportunity, there was no conceivable way I could give it up.”

E’Silva’s design is titled XI-1980, and is a futuristic reimagining of the character Xi from the South African cult favourite, The Gods Must Be Crazy. “I worked on my project in and around my third-year film duties for around a week… Finding out I had made it was honestly the happiest moment of my third-year experience,” enthused E’Silva.

The film Spud was a huge inspiration for a number of applicants, including Abraham Mohotsi and Antoinette Malan, who are both completing their Digital Animation diploma at The Animation School.

Mohotsi’s design, titled Student Mentorship Programme, is inspired by the male character Troye from Spud, while Malan designed a sporty, female character named Kimberly.

“I was constantly thinking about her and what her personality was like and where her interests lie…” says Malan. “I really wanted to do my best and make my family and friends as well as myself proud.”

Journey to Annecy

The shortlisted entries underwent an intense judging process by industry experts Lesego Vorster and Tumelo Selamolela, as well as 2018 Annecy winners Terence Maluleke and Smangaliso Sibaya.

Malan, Mohotsi, E’Silva and Jared Dean Mahonri were the four students selected to showcase their artwork at Annecy alongside South African animation professionals.

The NFVF arranged a jam-packed, five-day programme for the four winners which included attending pitching sessions, masterclasses and film screenings, as well as networking sessions with students from the Gobelins Animation College and industry experts.

Lesego Vorster, who is an alumnus from Gobelins, acted as a mentor to the students throughout their Annecy journey.

Earlier this year, Vorster worked with Gobelins to provide an internship programme for 20 animation students from the Tshimologong Animation Studio. The programme was dedicated to developing authentic African aesthetics through appropriate referencing and understanding of design and storytelling fundamentals.

Speaking about the programme, Vorster said: “The partnership with Gobelins offers interns strong support from one of the best schools in the world, not only in raising the standard and quality of the work to come out of the Tshimologong Animation Studio, but also to broaden the horizons of all interns.”

NFVF partners with Gobelins

At Annecy, the NFVF signed an official partnership agreement with Gobelins and the French Embassy of South Africa.

The agreement is aimed at growing South Africa’s animation industry by presenting opportunities for future collaborations – including skills exchange – between African animation productions and institutions and their French counterparts.

Furthermore, the NFVF promised to contribute more than EUR16 000 (R268 000) towards scholarships for South Africans to study at Gobelins. The scholarship programme is additionally funded by The Animation School and Campus France.

Karien Benz from Cape Town has been selected as the first student to be awarded the scholarship to study for a Master of Arts in Character Animation and Animated Filmmaking.

“South African animators have been creating soundwaves across international borders over the last decade, and it’s essential that – as the funding body mandated to ensure the development and growth of the film industry in South Africa – we have partnered to create a scholarship with Gobelins,” comments Mawela.

Save the date for Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival 2019

From 30 August to 8 September 2019 the Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival will return to Johannesburg to explore and celebrate technology and creativity by Africans for Africa.

The 2019 festival has cast its central theme as ‘Own Your Force’ which invites digital makers in Africa to stake their claim on their talent, industry and creative economy.

Wits University’s Tshimologong Innovation Precinct, in collaboration with partners in the Braamfontein area will be at the heart of festivities with a programme promising to yet again transform Johannesburg into a celebration of technology, creativity and innovation from across the African continent.

Now in its sixth successful year, Fak’ugesi returns in 2019 after programme directors took a break from annual programming, producing a smaller program last year to focus on the festival’s vision and development.  Dr Tegan Bristow, Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival director says attendees can expect a fresh and energised line-up that explores screen-based digital creativity in gaming, virtual reality, mixed reality cinema and animation – with special focus on cross-sector collaboration in the region for Southern and East Africa, addressing blockchain, artificial intelligence, protection of intellectual and creative property and much more.

“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. This year’s theme ‘OWN YOUR FORCE’ centres on an African vision of the future of digital creativity by asking; who owns our digital value chain? How do we protect our creative and cultural equity in the digital world? How do we value our contributions to digital culture in an African economy? Where are the threats and the opportunities for culture and technology in Africa in a world driven by market interests?” explains Bristow.

A highlight in this year’s Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival programme is a conference developed in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut’s Creative Entrepreneurship office, which will bring attention to the challenges of creative and digital entrepreneurship within the 4th Industrial Revolution in Africa. In preparation, Goethe will host a forum of select contributions on 4 July 2019 at Goethe Johannesburg (see www.fakugesi.co.za for more).

Another highlight of the 2019 programme is the annual and much-loved Fak’ugesi Digital Africa Residency, which will bring together aspiring young digital artists from the SADC region. This year the project expands as young Swiss artists collaborate with their SADC counterparts. Working with Pro Helvetia and the ANT Fund for Development and Co-operation (SDC), the residency serves to highlight and develop incredible young digital talent in Southern Africa and boost their careers as important digital creatives.

Along with supporting young up-and-coming digital arts via the annual Residency, Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival will be hosting a large contingent of African Digital makers to both present and attend. In 2019 Fak’ugesi Festival will be working with the British Council Southern African Arts to bring up to 15 digital artists and story tellers from across the continent in the ColabNowNow project, a shared encounter with Fak’ugesi Festival’s sister festival Maputo Fast Forward in Mozambique. Additionally, in partnership with the Tshimologong Precinct, Fak’ugesi Festival will also host the recent Digital Lab Africa competition winners who hail from Ghana, Mali, Zimbabwe, Kenya and South Africa to represent five creative digital start-ups in Gaming, Animation, VR, Web Creation and Digital Media.

After its launch in 2018, the Fak’ugesi Arcade program will run in full force this year with an emphasis on gaming in Sub-Saharan Africa. “Fak’ugesi Arcade is a project within Fak’ugesi Festival, a partnership with the Wits Digital Arts Department and various gaming industry partners that acts to present new work both from the region and internationally and develop a critical agenda for the development of the gaming industry in Southern Africa,” says Bristow. Fak’ugesi Arcade will feature a special cross-sector game-jam (scriptwriting, music, UX and Animation in gaming) and workshops to build collaboration between sectors. The Fak’ugesi Arcade team will also shine a light on indigenous and urban games, which will include a participatory game in a WhatsApp chatbot by Dutch Artist Klassien van de Zandschulp titled “OutSpace”.

Among the array of exciting exhibitions at this year’s festival will be the Fak’ugesi Digital Africa Residency Exhibition, work by Swiss Artists Andrea Gysin and Sidi Vanetti, a VR exhibition, an Animation screening in collaboration with AnimationSA, a Games Arcade and an online residency with Floating Reverie.

“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 risen to prominence as a platform through which many young digital makers have launched their careers and developed skills in digital media and technology innovation,” adds Bristow.

French and South African partners collaborate to support South African animation industry

South African startup innovation hub, the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct and the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) strengthened their ties with international partners by signing official partnership agreements at the recent 2019 Annecy International Animated Film Festival. The agreements are with Paris-based animation school, Gobelins, and the French Embassy in South Africa.

The objective of both of the agreements is to grow the animation industry’s skills pipeline by offering training, internships and scholarships to animators in Africa. It also presents the opportunity to enhance the linkages between African animation talent, producers, schools and institutions with their French counterparts.

Earlier this year, the Precinct’s Johannesburg-based Tshimologong Animation Studio opened its doors to 20 interns with hopes to further their understanding of visual development for high-end animation under the direction of recent Gobelins Masters graduate, Lesego Vorster. Co-designed in collaboration with Gobelins, the internship programme is focused on establishing authentic African aesthetics through appropriate referencing and understanding of design and storytelling fundamentals. Furthermore, the internship forms part of an active role in empowering black youth in a field which was previously relatively inaccessible to them.

The Tshimologong Animation Studio is strategically positioned as being between a finishing school and an internship. This gives interns first-hand experience on real-world projects, while still having the comfort of being able to use university methodology to strengthen their references as well as their workflow.

“The partnership with Gobelins offers interns strong support from one of the best schools in the world, not only in raising the standard and quality of the work to come out of the Tshimologong Animation Studio, but also to broaden the horizons of all interns,” says Lesego Vorster, Tshimologong Animation Studio art director.

“South Africa is a vibrant soil of young creativity. Talents are numerous, young and passionate, promise of a very bright future and the emergence of a powerful African animation,” says Cécile Blondel, head of International Relations, Gobelins.

The agreement with the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) and the French Embassy in South Africa addresses training needs, scholarships, skills exchange and co-production opportunities. The NFVF will contribute up to EUR16,000 (R268 000) for a scholarship for the Gobelins “Character Animation and animated filmmaking – Master of Arts” qualification. The Animation School (SA) and Campus France will also fund this scholarship. Gobelins, NFVF, the French Institute of South Africa, the Animation School and Campus France have awarded this scholarship to Karien Benz.

By joining forces, the two organisations aim to strengthen their support for the South African film and TV industry and to foster better cooperation between South African and French ecosystems in film, TV and new formats. The animation industry, because of its dynamism, creativity and international appeal both in France and in South Africa, is at the core of this new partnership. Both institutions aim to support and reinforce synergies between the respective markets and to promote consistency in the support of their development.

“South African animators have been creating soundwaves across international borders over the last decade and it’s essential that as the funding body mandated to ensure the development and growth of the film industry in South Africa, that we have partnered to create a scholarship with Gobelins. I look forward to a beneficial partnership that will see a significant step towards the further growth of the animation sector in South Africa” says Joy Mawela, head of Industry Development & Promotions (National Film and Video Foundation).

“As South Africa’s potential in the field of animation is undeniable, especially in the development and production of original content rooted in a strong Africanisation of imagery, we see the enhancement of our cooperation with NFVF as a great opportunity to expand opportunities for creators, to promote prolific cooperation, and to bring our two markets closer together using the complementarity of their assets,” says Erika Denis, regional head of Media, Film & Music (French Embassy/French Institute in South Africa).

Tshimologong’s Digital Lab Africa programme supports emerging talent in animation

Managed by Tshimologong, Digital Lab Africa is the first pan-African acceleration programme dedicated to creative content (animation, immersive content, gaming, music and web creation). As part of their mentorship programme, three DLA mentees are attending the Annecy Animation Festival: South African animator Lwazi Msipha (Project: Ringa Mzansi) and Kenyan animators Naddya Adhiambo (Project: Uzi) and Justus Macharia (Project: Baba).

“Annecy is a unique opportunity for DLA mentees to be immersed in the animation international ecosystem and meet top animation industry players. Also, partnering with the NFVF and the French embassy in South Africa in signing an agreement of this nature with the top animation school in the world, Gobelins, guarantees the quality of work our graduates will be producing” says Lesley Donna Williams, CEO of Tshimologong Precinct and Director of DLA programme.

DLA mentees also have the opportunity to interact with their French and South African  mentors as they are all attending the festival: Stuart Forrest (Triggerfish Animation, SA), Lesego Vorster (Tshimologong Precinct), Isaac Mogajane (Diprente Film), Marie-Anne Fontenier (Nef Animation) and Eric Réginaud (Ciclic Animation).

Tshimologong Precinct signs official partnerships with prestigious SACEM and INA organisations in France

South African innovation hub, the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct has strengthened its international ties by signing official partnership agreements respectively with the French National Audiovisual Institute (INA) on 16 May, and the French Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music (SACEM) on 24 May.

The partnerships will allow Tshimologong and its incubation platform for African digital creatives, the Digital Content Hub, to foster meaningful connections between the French market and the South African creative digital ecosystem. As the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Digital Content Hub was born out of a collaboration between Tshimologong and the French Embassy in South Africa in the frame of its ongoing support towards cultural and creative industries. It plans to host academic programmes, labs, workshops, exchange of expertise, collaborative workspaces, a development studio, exhibitions and special events from the creative industries in collaboration with INA and SACEM.

Lesley Williams, CEO of Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct and director of the Digital Content Hub says that ties with prestigious organisations like INA and SACEM present an exciting opportunity for African digital innovation to reach a broader global market: “We’re delighted to be able to propel entrepreneurship and grow the skills pipeline for the digital economy through collaboration while combining technology innovation and creative content.”

COLLABORATION WITH INA: TRAINING, EVENT & CULTURAL ENGINEERING

After a successful Hackathon and content production around new archive collections in 2018 (Rivonia Trial Sound Jam), INA and Tshimologong will continue their ongoing partnership by focusing in immersive content training by sharing expertise on web series, VR, AR, binaural sound, and digital music. INA and Tshimologong will also pursue efforts in the production and distribution of content using archives.

“INA has built successful partnerships with the South African Republic in regard to archives preservation and professional trainings. INA is now thrilled to sign an agreement with Tshimologong Precinct, an ambitious incubator guided by objectives”, says Laurent Vallet, CEO of INA.

INA also shares: supporting talents and fostering the emergence of new forms of innovative digital content.

COLLABORATION WITH SACEM: MUSIC INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

The agreement between SACEM and Tshimologong is a result of SACEM Université’s support of Digital Lab Africa. SACEM Université is a department of SACEM dedicated to prospective on the one hand, and pedagogy for intellectual property and culture on the other hand.

Among areas of cooperation, Tshimologong and SACEM will pursue training courses, seminars and workshop opportunities with a focus on authors’ rights issues, management of intellectual property, rights in the digital era, together with new business models. This upcoming collaboration is a great opportunity to launch programs which support emerging talent in the music field.

Jean-Noël Tronc, CEO of SACEM says that for many years, Africa, as a continent, has enlightened the world with immense creative talents whose music is at the core of most of today’s music and rhythms: “SACEM, with thousands of its composers and songwriters having cultural bonds with Africa, is committed to contributing to and promoting the creation and authors’ rights in Africa. Hence SACEM works closely with its African sister societies.”

“We are thrilled by the perspectives of the cooperation with the Digital Content Hub of Tshimologong to reinforce authors’ rights and copyright, and the virtues of collective management in Africa,” says Tronc.

Winners of the Digital Lab Africa Pitch Competition announced

Digital Lab Africa (DLA), a springboard and incubation platform for African creatives in digital content, has announced the 10 winning projects of this year’s edition of the DLA accelerator programme. Initiated by the Embassy of France and French Institute in South Africa (IFAS), DLA is managed by the South African technology hub Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct, with support from the Agence Française de Développement (AFD).

From among 500 applications from over 30 sub-Saharan countries, 10 creatives from countries including South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Mali and Ghana were selected. These individuals stood out in the selection committee interviews based on their talent, creativity and ability to motivate their ideas.

Each of the 10 winners receive a R42,000 cash prize and a tailored-made incubation programme to accelerate their project development. This includes mentorship by French & sub-Saharan creative industries experts, a residence period in France within a digital cluster/hub, and participation at industry events in France and/or in sub-Saharan African region.

Furthermore, following a period of public online voting, the DLA Audience Award has been awarded to Justus Macharia from Kenya for his work titled BABA. With 501 votes out of 3329 in total, Macharia’s prize includes an invitation to one of the DLA industry events in France or in Sub-Saharan Africa.

WINNERS BY CATEGORY:

ANIMATION

RINGA MZANSI by Lwazi Msipha (South Africa)
UZI by Naddya Adhiambo Oluoch-Olunya (Kenya)

WEB CREATION

CARTOGRAPHIE DES RÉGIONS MUSICALES DU MALI by Tiécoura N’Daou (Mali)

RE/MEMBER YOUR DESCENDANTS by Xabiso Vili (South Africa)

DIGITAL MUSIC

SWAGGIFY by Marvin Madyara (Zimbabwe)
SUNKAMBE by Shaka Ramulifho (South Africa)

VIRTUAL REALITY

TRVLR by Komborerai Chapfika (Zimbabwe)
THE AFROCYBORG VR FILM COLLECTIVE by Shmerah Passchier & The Afrocyborg Collective (South Africa)

VIDEO GAME

MANCALA PLUS by Setriakor Nyomi (Ghana)

PRECIOUS CARGO by Simone Beneke-Graham, Shannon Bennetts, Rowan Brough & Niall Graham (South Africa)

Vote for your favourite African creative in the DLA Online Pitch Competition

Public voting is now open until April 28 for the 30 African creatives selected to compete at the Digital Lab Africa (DLA) Online Pitch Competition.

The DLA is a springboard and an incubation platform for African creatives in digital content. Initiated by the Embassy of France and French Institute in South Africa (IFAS) in 2016, the programme has been managed by Wits University’s Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct  since 2018. This year, the third edition of DLA, is a fully-fledged programme of the Digital Content Hub of Tshimologong which is supported by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD).

The Digital Lab Africa (DLA #3) call for projects closed on 31 January 2019 with around 500 entries from over 30 Sub-Saharan African countries including Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Republic of the Congo, Mali, Senegal, Gabon. Of these, 30 finalists who best represent the new generation of talent in creative industries ranging from virtual reality, web creation, digital music, video game and animation, were chosen by DLA digital content industry experts to compete in the DLA Online Pitch Competition.

Lesley Williams, CEO of Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct and Director of Digital Lab Africa, says the digitisation of Africa will only work to the benefit of the continent if there are more contributions from talented content creators. “We would like to thank all the candidates who applied for the DLA call for projects. We recognise the importance of taking ownership of the narrative in our own stories and we’re delighted that so many candidates stepped up to the plate.”

Fans and followers can watch and vote for their favourite video pitch via a dedicated online platform, www.vote.digilabafrica.com. Developed by Zakhele Technologies, a Tshimologong based IT company, the platform is open until 28 April. In addition, all video pitches will be housed and showcased at the Tshimologong Source Code Gallery for the duration of the competition. The project with the most online votes will be awarded the DLA Audience Award which includes an invitation to a prestigious DLA industry event in France or in the Sub-Saharan African region.

Chosen by the DLA Selection Committees, the 10 winners of the Pitch Competition will be revealed on 30 April. The 10 winners will each receive a guaranteed R42,000 cash prize and a tailor-made incubation programme to accelerate their project development with mentors from French and Sub-Saharan creative industries, a residency period in France within a digital cluster, and participation at industry events in France as well as in the Sub-Saharan African region.

The 30 finalists in the DLA Pitch Competition include:

Animation

  • Baba by Justus Macharia (Kenya)
  • Frozilla by Komborerai Chapfika (Zimbabwe)
  • Herbbeings – The Mind Tea Leaf by Abisola Aboaba (Nigeria)
  • Little Little Orishas by Archange Kiyindou (Republic of the Congo)
  • Ringa Mzansi by Lwazi Msipha (South Africa)
  • Uzi by Naddya Adhiambo Oluoch-Olunya (Kenya)

Web Creation

  • Cartographie Des Régions Musicales Du Mali by Tiécoura N’Daou (Mali)
  • Man Walks Into A Bar by Matthew Cuthbert (South Africa)
  • Meet The Artist by Okuhle Magcaba (South Africa)
  • Pendo by Wako Sefara and Muendo Mullei Muindi (South Africa)
  • Re/Member Your Descendants by Xabiso Vili (South Africa)
  • Reunion by Bokang Lehlokoe and Nomonde Jele (South Africa)

Digital Music

  • Akulele Programme by Tabitha Karaba (Kenya)
  • Frontline Session by Norton Nyandeni (South Africa)
  • Jokko Text by Mamadou Dione (Senegal)
  • Streambeats Live by Cédrick Mezui Beckdan (Gabon)
  • Sunkambe by Shaka Ramulifho (South Africa)
  • Swaggify by Marvin Madyara (Zimbabwe)

Virtual Reality

  • I Am A Woman Defined / Stories About Her by Charmaine Chitate (Zimbabwe)
  • Phendula by Gugulethu Duma & Regina Kgatle (South Africa)
  • Siya Khumbula by Isaac Zavale & Antonio Marin (South Africa/Mozambique)
  • The Afrocyborg Vr Film Collective by Shmerah Passchier & The Afrocyborg Collective (South Africa)
  • TRVLR by Komborerai Chapfika (Zimbabwe)
  • The Crossing by Tafadzwa Hove (South Africa/Zimbabwe)

Video Game

  • Ahkunobi by Ebube Ofili (Nigeria)
  • Mancala Plus by Setriakor Nyomi (Ghana)
  • Precious Cargo by Simone Beneke-Graham, Shannon Bennetts, Rowan Brough & Niall Graham (South Africa)
  • Riziki by George Ahere (Kenya)
  • Wahenga – The Lost Ancestors by Salim Burusu (Kenya)

Visit the DLA website to vote.

 

Conlog launches blockchain incubation programme in partnership with Tshimologong Precinct

Leading smart metering solutions provider, Conlog, has partnered with Wits University’s Tshimologong Precinct to launch an innovative technology programme. With a strong focus on blockchain and smart city solutions, Conlog approached the Precinct to assist in developing and promoting innovation, skills development and entrepreneurship within South Africa through its newly established Reapele programme.

Hosted and run by the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Braamfontein, Reapele will be delivered in seven phases and aims to innovate and nurture technology businesses, digital products and ideas, turning them into viable businesses: “We are excited to launch this new project, which will assist in developing Conlog’s open innovation capability in smart connected metering technology,” says Kendal Makgamathe, head of marketing, Tshimologong Precinct. “The programme will enhance Conlog’s business transformation journey by forging technical advisory partnerships with Wits University faculties and its research students.”

Designed to meet a variety of technology goals, the first phase of the programme calls for aspiring junior software developers and technologists to participate in a meet-up event, following which an online assessment will serve to identify the top performers using custom coding assessments in relevant programming languages such as Java, JavaScript, C++ or Python, C#. Once the successful candidates have been identified, the candidates will be trained on the core principles and foundations of coding using Blockchain.

Subsequent to the coaching, the candidates will use their new coding skills in a 3-day Hackathon, which is aimed at challenging the candidates to develop a Blockchain Proof of Concept in partnership with BlockStarters. The Hackathon will provide an opportunity for top technologists to win the grand prize of R20 000, while a Design Sprint, which consists of a five-day intensive design thinking programme enables the candidates to address their new technology with real customers.

Furthermore, Reapele, offers an intensive incubation period for the incumbent software developers that have developed an existing Blockchain solution. Limited to a set number of individuals, the incubation will provide a platform for the Proof of Concept (POC) to be developed further, culminating in live demonstrations of the blockchain technology to potential clients. The incubation will also assist in developing a validated marketing plan and a tried and tested business model.

“Conlog is world renowned for providing innovative solutions to everyday challenges. Disruptive design thinking and innovation are forged into our spirit which has enabled us to retain our position of leadership in the industry, whilst remaining relevant to the market. We are extremely motivated by the formation of the Reapele programme and look forward to working with Tshimologong Precinct to develop tomorrow’s future Blockchain experts,” says Lance Hawkins-Dady, head of Engineering, Conlog.

Hawkins-Dady says that Conlog is passionate about solving challenges with innovative technological solutions and considers Blockchain a key part of digitisation innovation: “Reapele will assist in developing much needed skills while also encouraging a startup mindset for software developers.”

Third edition of Digital Lab Africa to kick off at DISCOP Johannesburg

Digital Lab Africa (DLA) is a springboard and an incubation platform for African creatives in digital content. Initiated by the Embassy of France and French Institute in South Africa (IFAS) in 2016, the programme is managed by the South African innovation hub Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct since 2018. The third edition of DLA will be for the first time a full-fledged program of the Digital Content Hub of Tshimologong which is supported by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD).

The objective of Digital Lab Africa is to provide a springboard for the creators of next-generation content and to make their project happen with the support of French and Sub-Saharan African leading companies such as Triggerfish Animation, ARTE, TRACE or Lagardère Studios.

Available on Digilabafrica.com from 15 November, the DLA call for projects #3 is open to anyone from the field of digital content creation: artists, producers, designers, startups, SMEs, collectives, students or entrepreneurs. All applicants should either be based in Sub-Saharan Africa or be nationals of a country in this region.

The call targets developing projects in need of partners and financial support. The projects need to be innovative from the perspective of form, storytelling, content and technologies used, in one of the five following categories of multimedia production: web creation, virtual reality, gaming, digital music and animation.

For Lesley Donna Williams, the chief executive of the Tshimologong Precinct, the DLA call for projects #3 ties in with Tshimologong’s vision of ‘Africa Rising’: “The call for a greater volume of authentic African voices in the global digital space is growing and we are well poised with our relationship with the DLA and through our Digital Content Hub to fill that gap with meaningful content.”

“The French Embassy and the French Institute in South Africa are pleased to launch the third call for applications of Digital Lab Africa alongside two new high-quality partners: the Digital Content Hub of Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct, and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD). The ecosystem of Tshimologong associated with the more than 40 French and African key players of the cultural industries partners of DLA offer a very promising and dynamic environment for this third edition” says Christophe Farnaud, Ambassador of France in South Africa.

DISCOP  is committed to empowering young creators and enriching Africa’s multiscreen ecosystems. Our partnership with Digital Lab Africa is a great way for DISCOP to address the numerous gaps across the development of a sound multimedia sector in Africa” adds Patrick Zuchowicki, CEO of DISCOP.

The selected projects are granted with a R42,000 cash prize and a Digital Lab Africa Incubation Pass to accelerate the projects’ development. Each of the projects’ holders are mentored by both French and African experts to benefit from the expertise of several ecosystems. Alongside the mentorship programme, DLA mentees take part in residency programmes within digital clusters and also participate in industry events in France or in Sub-Saharan African region. The expected outcome of Digital Lab Africa programme is market-ready content/productions showcasing African creativity at its best.

During the second edition, DLA received +700 entries from over 30 Sub-Saharan African countries. Since the beginning of the initiative, fifteen projects from Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia have been awarded and incubated by DLA.

Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival announces 2018 programme

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.

Digital Lab Africa is joining Tshimologong’s Digital Content Hub

Digital Lab Africa will integrate the Digital Content Hub launched on 9 July 2018, at the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct.

Tshimologong, founded by Wits University has launched a Digital Content Hub, an incubator of innovative and creative audio-visual content, in partnership with Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS).

Established in 2016 in the vibrant inner-city district of Braamfontein, Johannesburg, Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct incubates digital entrepreneurs and grows the skills pipeline for the digital economy through collaboration with academia, corporates, government and entrepreneurs.

Thanks to a grant of AFD, Tshimologong will expand its activities to incorporate audiovisual content creation (animation, virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, holograms, 360° video, web content, video games, applications, web series and music). This Digital Content Hub will be based at the Precinct in Braamfontein and managed by Tshimologong in collaboration with key players in the multimedia and cultural and creative industries sector in France.

This is the first investment by AFD in the area of digital innovation in Southern Africa and reflects the organisation’s new focus on financing cultural, creative and tech industries as key players in local economic development.

The idea of establishing a Digital Content Hub was born from an existing collaboration between Tshimologong and Digital Lab Africa. Tshimologong and IFAS have thus joined forces to integrate the existing Digital Lab Africa system within a new Digital Content Hub physical incubator project.

The new content incubator project will include:
• Incorporation of training modules focused on content development in Tshimologong’s Skills Development Academy; French institutions will support Tshimologong in developing new curricula, training trainers and arranging exchanges of staff and students between France and South Africa;
• Introduction of a two-year skills development programme focused on gaming and animation in order to develop a skills pipeline for the creative and digital economy;
• Integration of Digital Lab Africa into Tshimologong’s existing start-up incubation programme.

By 2021, Tshimologong is expected to have fully incorporated digital content development into its activities in a self-sustainable manner.

Finally, Tshimologong is broadening its current partnership base to include South African and French companies with a view to fostering expertise exchange, skills transfer and business opportunities for French and African business.

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