Report⎪The Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival 2022
Last weekend there was a call for collaboration, funding and accessibility from the vibrant centre of Johannesburg, South Africa. The Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival is being held from 13 - 21 October 2022 at the Tshimologong Precinct in Braamfontein, celebrating a wide range of immersive film, animation, gaming and XR works from across Africa.
This article reflects on the first day of the festival, panels and projects of note, key takeaways and what more to expect.
According to their website, the festival is rooted in showcasing and developing skills in technology, art and culture in Africa. Founded in 2014 as a collaboration between the Tshimologong Precinct and the Wits School of Arts, Digital Arts Department, the festival takes as it starting point the idea that for innovation with technology to succeed, a strong connection needs to be made between African cultural practices and creative encounters.
Fak’ugesi takes the opportunity in a world reshaping itself after a global pandemic to pause to see where we are and to look into our African digital future. The festival takes on two elements our ‘FromNow’ taking a look at where we are now, how have we gotten here, how did the pandemic hinder/assist in placing us in our current context / and the ‘NowOn’ where we use what we know of the now and project into the future to the spaces we will build together in the future.-
Different panels and forums ran over the past weekend. Recordings of the live streams can be found here.
A panel of note was the Future Africa - XR Focus. Moderated by Electric South producer Antoinette Engel (South Africa), this event included the following artists and innovators speaking on their process and motivation: from the Future Africa Showcase (Dylan Valley (South Africa), Pierre Christophe Gam (Cameroon), and Nirma Madhoo (Mauritius)), alongside the project partners Meta (Nomonde Gongxeka-Seopa) and Africa No Filter (Moky Makura). There was a definite emphasis on storytelling and experimentation. Policy Programs Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa at Meta, Phil Oduor, also elaborated on Meta's funding and transformative uplifting initiatives on the African continent.
The panel demonstrated that quite a lot of XR innovation is happening on the continent. Several of the artists mentioned that access to technology is still a challenge and called for more accessibility and funding for African artists. This point was echoed by several other talks and panels. Ingrid Kopp, co-chair of the World Economic Forum Global Council on Virtual and Augmented Reality, stated in the festival opening keynote that African artist face many challenges, including impaired internet speeds and cost. She said that, currently, the ecosystem is shaky. There are passionate artists out there, but that funding comes and go, XR gear gets stuck, and cross-continental travel is slowed due to visas restrictions. She stated that it isn’t easy to travel between African countries in order to collaborate.
This was followed with a three-hours workshop on NFTs and an evening showcase Animation and Art at the Wits film & TV Auditorium. One of the films screened focused on “100 Years of Wits History through AR and VR- A collaboration between the University of Witwatersrand's Film and TV and Digital Arts departments brings you five VR films and AR experiences that aim to capture the 1970s to the 2010s.” This project, amongst so many others at the festival, showcased the creative potential of a new generation of African filmmakers who are embracing XR technology.
The second day of the festival focused on African Intermediaries, Cultural Policy and Diplomacy and Gaming showcase and a panel on AI Art in Africa.
Key takeaways from the first day of the festival was that there is an abundance of African asrtists out there, brimming with creativity, an eagerness for experimentation, passion and possibilities.
Featured artist were encouraging new artists to embrace the new XR technology, to view it as another tool and potential medium, and to navigate with confidence.
In general, there is a call for more national and international funding, in order to support artists during the span of a career and not just for specific projects.
Fak’ugesi 2022 Awards for Digital Creativity
The inaugural Fak’ugesi 2022 Awards ceremony for Digital Creativity will take place on 21 October. These awards are the first of their kind, recognising digital innovation in creativity across the countries of Africa. The festival states that “since our inception 9 years ago we have seen, worked with and applauded the meteoric rise of African creativity in the digital space. In 2022, we want to further this growth by awarding the best works in five categories: arts (visual, performance), animation, music, video games, extended reality (AR, VR)”.
This year's finalists can be found here: https://fakugesi.co.za/awards-2022/