In Summary
  • The Digital Art Festival is organised by Mbithi Masya and his co-curator Sandra Chege of Youth Knows No Limits (YKNL), in partnership with Goethe-Institut, Nairobi. It is a forum for dialogue, exchange and presentation of digital art.
  • Mbithi Masya is a Nairobi film-maker and artist. He is a member of the acclaimed experimental art collective Just A Band, whose music and videos explored jazz, hip-hop, electronic and disco styles.

History is not being made; it is being interrogated. Some of it is being wrecked. Some of it is being considered, while some of it is being left where it belongs – in the past. This is the tone at the Digital Art Festival in Nairobi, which kicked off on Tuesday night with an exhibition at the Shifteye Gallery and a screening of PressPausePlay, a documentary that captures the dynamic times we are living in, thanks to the digital revolution. In a video installation titled What the Fuss?, Melisa Allela and Lenny Njagih explore privacy, identity, narcissism, absurdity and isolation on Facebook using profile updates to create a gripping visual experience on 360 headsets and projections. Musa Omusi has created a fictitious character, Gunia Guru, who has a solution to the issue of waste. He interacts with the viewer through diverse digital media to pass the message of “reduce, recycle, reuse”.

FIVE ARTISTS TAKEN ON THE CHALLENGE

Five Kenyan artists have taken on the challenge of reflecting and examining our current interactions with and in the digital space, and imagining a new future of digital possibilities. They explore, using digital tools, the good and the ugly psychological and social implications of digital technologies.

In a country with a mobile phone and Internet penetration of 88 per cent and 70 per cent respectively, it is clear that digital technology can be a vehicle for innovation and economic growth. But Kenya has 0.2 fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 people, which ranks the country 28th in Africa in fixed broadband use. It is fixed broadband, not mobile broadband, that supports an innovation economy. It supports “heavy” applications that enable streaming, video conferencing, cloud computing and large file downloads. That shows that we still have a long way to go in realising the benefits of digital technologies.

The Digital Art Festival is organised by Mbithi Masya and his co-curator Sandra Chege of Youth Knows No Limits (YKNL), in partnership with Goethe-Institut, Nairobi. It is a forum for dialogue, exchange and presentation of digital art.

One of the organisers, Mbithi Masya at The Shifteye Gallery. PHOTO| CULTURAL VIDEO FOUNDATION

Mbithi Masya is a Nairobi film-maker and artist. He is a member of the acclaimed experimental art collective Just A Band, whose music and videos explored jazz, hip-hop, electronic and disco styles. They are the band behind “Makmende”, the Kenyan superhero, whose video went viral, earning the group international acclaim. Last month, Mbithi premiered his first feature film, Kati Kati, at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he received an International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) award. 

Some of the other local artists participating in the festival include Awuor Onyango, Bazil Ngode and Chris King. They will be joined by German artists Leo Hofmann and Benjamin van Bebber of Institute of Applied Half Knowledge, an artistic research and production collective.

FESTIVAL PROGRAMME

The festival programme consists of screenings, talks, workshops and an exhibition of the artworks as well as a performance titled Winterreise by the German artists. It is inspired by the classical composer Franz Schubert’s piece by the same name, and tackles issues like friendship and alienation across spaces. It’s a digital performance piece on drifting and nomadism.

On Wednesday at the Goethe auditorium, Victoria Herzog will talk on media and design education at 4pm; Mark Kwami, a Ghanaian-German product designer, will talk on design and technology in the African context at 6pm; Chris King will explore disorientation in digital spheres at 8pm.

On Thursday, there’ll be an open house session at Gearbox on Ngong Road at 5pm where Jepchumba will be highlighting the need for African digital content at the Goethe auditorium at 6pm; Awuor Onyango will introduce us to Makeda, her feisty rebel queen who lives on the Internet, in her digital film, Makeda’s Lair at Lavington Mall.

On Friday, will start off with an open house session at Creatives Garage at noon. Tuko Macho, the award-winning film by the art collective, the Nest, will screen at 4pm at the Goethe auditorium. Nanjala Nyabola will explore civic identities at 6pm at the samea uditorium and Bazil Ngode will talk on refutations at 8pm.

Saturday starts off with a performance of Winterreise at the courtyard between Kenindia House and Alliance Francaise followed by a talk by the German artists at noon at the Goethe auditorium; a workshop on choreographic coding at Goethe; finally, a wrap-up party at Privee on Rhapta Road.