Art

Online fete shows Kenyans are deep into new media

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Poster of African Spacemakers on show at the Jibambe na Tec media festival.

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Summary

  • Jibambe na Tec, which runs until December 1 is the best place to catch up on everything from virtual reality (VR) and video games to ‘machinima’ (the art of filmmaking using video games).

Having a media festival online and at Alliance Francaise may not sound like a big deal, especially if you still operate in an analog mode.

But Jibambe na Tec, which runs until December 1 is the best place to catch up on everything from virtual reality (VR) and video games to ‘machinima’ (the art of filmmaking using video games).

And even if you’re conversant with VR (meaning video shot and viewed from a 360-degree angle), you most likely have never seen it made in Africa by Africans. But out of the three VR films being shared during the festival, two are by Kenyans (African Spacemakers and The Forgotten Ones) and one by a Ghanaian (Daughters of Chibok).

You do need to register online (for free) at www.jibambenatec.space to attend. Otherwise, two of the video games in the fete are also by Africans and both interactive, as is the eye-opening African Spacemakers.

There’s a third video by Francis Amenya that came out the week-long ‘machinima’ workshop conducted by Isabelle Arvers who also curated the fete which additionally includes exhibitions by Maasai Mbili and graffiti artist Kerosh Kiruri.

“We included Maasai Mbili and Kerosh because they reflect one of the key concerns of the festival which is the interaction between art and society,” says Isabelle whose workshop included students from Technical University of Kenya and the African Digital Media Institute (which is the first of its kind in Africa).

Out of all the fascinating activities of the festival, the one I found most engaging, and imaginative was the interactive mockumentary, African Spacemakers. A collaboration between NRB Bus with Black Rhino VR and INVR, ASM takes you on a grand urban tour of more than half a dozen different sites in Nairobi.

Travelling by a virtual matatu whose conductor (Raymond Ofula) treats you to options where one’s eye contact and a click is enough to take you either to artists enclaves at Brush tu Studio in Buru Buru, M2 in Kibera or the Railway Museum where graffiti artists cover derelict train cars and brick walls with beautiful art that offends fanatical pseudo-pious ‘Christians’. Or you can find yourself at Dandora’s ‘largest dumpsite in Africa’, Kitengela’s ever-green gorge, Gikomba’s hectic mitumba market or inside a lively night club where folks drink ‘plant-based’ khat juice rather than alcohol.

Scripted by NRB’s Vincenzo Cavallo, each choice and space selected reveals so many lively stories about Nairobi’s diverse city life, that one will be amazed to explore places most people have rarely seen before.

The other Kenya-made VR video, The Forgotten Ones is by Charles Muchiri, founder of Black Rhino VR. A deeply moving ‘self-portrait’ of this 30-acre garbage dump that is ‘home’ to almost a million people, the film is narrated by Mufasa the Poet who personifies the dumpsite with powerful poetry that speaks plainly of the neglect, social injustice and terrible environmental degradation done to land once meant to highlight the ‘enlightened progress’ of a post-colonial Kenya.

Jibambe na Tec is a joint Alliance Francaise-Goethe Institute project supported by the French German Cultural Cooperation Fund.