By Hillary Faye on africandigitalart.com
Kenyan digital artist and founder of African Digital Art, Jepchumba is one of this year’s Design Indaba expo curators. With her keen eye for tech innovation she sifted through the hundreds of digital and communication sector applicants to find the very best from across the African continent. As part of our Meet The Curators series, we spoke to her about the criteria she used, the pervasiveness of the internet and a few digital design trends in Africa to keep an eye on.
Please tell us a bit about African Digital Art for those who aren’t familiar.
African Digital Art is an online platform that showcases the growing movement of digital African creative practices. We present ideas, creative projects and design solutions by African creatives. We feature all sorts of digital work from Africa, ranging from graphic art, animation, interactive projects, websites, short films and design.
What first sparked your interest in developing a digital platform to showcase, inspire and connect digital artists?
The spaces between art and technology have always fascinated me. As Africa is becoming immersed in technology I was curious to see how creative people and artists use technology as a means of cultural and artistic production. I believe that in the intersection between art and technology there is a space for much needed innovation. African Digital Art is that digital platform that shows a side of Africa that many people are not exposed to. There are still misconceptions about Africa and the globe is still unaware how digital Africa is and we believe that by presenting these projects online we can have a wider reach for exposing digital art practices and highlighting African creativity across the world.
What does being a curator for the Design Indaba expo entail?
It was a delight to take part in the Design Indaba expo, it is one of the largest design events in the world. In the past few years the organisers of Design Indaba have expanded their reach to the rest of the continent, understanding the importance of highlighting African artistry, design and craft. My role as a curator for the Digital & Communication sector was basically to go through projects submitted for the expo, identifying those that push the boundaries and portray the culture and artistry in South Africa and throughout the continent.
What was your selection criteria?
I wanted to see new projects that offered something a little different from what we generally are exposed to at the expo. Our selection criteria was very clear, we looked for designers that represented the African content, showcased African creativity and ingenuity and offered something unique from the rest of the global market. We did our best to select the best submitted by the hundreds of applicants.
Have there been any trends you’ve noticed in digital design during the curation process?
More artists are using digital tools for their art creation. Digital tools like iPads, tablets and mobile phones are now part of artistic projects as more artists are moving from pen and pencil to using technology for illustration, print and graphic design. Using alternative tools will affect the projects that we see and we can finally introduce new mediums into our craft making and design process. As design production gets easier and more accessible we will have alternative designers spring up from the continent and it will be more competitive but also more exciting.
Living in Africa we know that there are challenges regarding access to the internet, how do you think this has affected digital artists and their audiences?
Yes there are limitations to access to the internet, but I am not convinced as to the extent of this limitation. I think we all underestimate how much of Africa is online and how the internet is pervasive. In the past few years I have seen a surge of blogs, platforms, content, films and artistic work spring up online. As an example, on African Digital Art we have moved away from spending a lot of time hunting for artists and designers to actually spending the majority of time curating through the hundreds of submissions we receive weekly.
Maybe I am a true optimist but I have never really considered the limitations and challenges of accessibility, rather I have taken the “if you build it, they will come” approach. We have to be in a constant process of innovating and pushing those digital boundaries, encouraging the African audience to engage in their own cultural production. This way of thinking has worked for us so far, in the beginning no one would even think of the term “African Digital Art” but now there are a growing pool of artists that are identifying themselves as African Digital Artists. Our audience grows exponentially each year.
Who are the digital designers/artists we should be looking out for in particular at the Design Indaba expo?
You will have to stay tuned and see the updates here on 10and5.
What are you most looking forward to about the event?
Where do I begin! We are seeing more artists from around the continent at Design Indaba. I am just looking forward to it all. Sounds like a vague response but really, it is true. I think that any chance to showcase African talent and give African artists a platform to showcase their artistry and also sell their goods is phenomenal. Can’t wait for it all.
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Read more about Design Indaba 2015, including all the ticket options, who to follow on social media, the Emerging Creatives to watch out for and more.
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