A Techie In Love With The Arts

... is a digital enthusiast who works hard to combine her two loves: Digital Media and Africa. Originally from Kenya, she has lived around the world developing her interest in philosophy, art and technology. Founder of African Digital Art Network, Jepchumba enjoys studying how technology has changed art and culture. With a Masters Degree in Digital Media, Jepchumba has formal training in Project Management and Digital Media Production.
In many ways she considers herself as a mad scientist. Always looking for the next upcoming project. She loves experimenting with motion, sound and various digital effects and techniques.

Digital Art according to Wikipedia is “... an umbrella term for a range of artistic works and practices that utilize digital technology.”
Something which is fairly new in Africa – first and foremost because of the lack of bandwidth.
The following interview with Jepchumba will hopefully highlight the fact, that African Digital Art is as diverse and special as traditional African Art has ever been.

Jepchumba, who are you?
What are you doing? What is your passion?

My name is Jepchumba and I am an African digital artist and digital enthusiast from Kenya. I am also the founder of African Digital Art Network. I have a masters degree in Digital Media, and I enjoy studying how technology affects art and culture in Africa.
In many ways I consider myself a mad scientist. I love experimenting with motion, sound and various digital effects and techniques. The reason why I am so pass-ionate about digital media is mainly due to the fact that I have an entire laboratory at my fingertips. In many ways I am a techie with the heart of an artist.

You are founder of Africandigitalart.com. What is it all about? What are the goals? Why “only” digital art?

African Digital Art is an online collective, a creative space, where digital artists, enthusiasts and professionals can seek inspiration, showcase their artistry and connect with emerging artists.
For the past two years the African Digital Art Network has presented unparalleled ideas, individualistic works and insightful designer solutions by the African creative community. It has become a platform for innovation and inspiration with a sophisticated blend of fresh talent and successful designers and artists.
The focus on digital is quite unique and important to us. We are not exclusive to digital art expressions but we are mainly interested in how artists use technology as a medium for their work. We believe that African digital art has a way of “Pushing Digital Boundaries” by enabling artist and creative professionals to come up with innovative solutions for their everyday lives. The African Digital Art Network is dedicated to fostering the growing technology-driven creative community that still remains in its infancy in Africa.

Why is art so important for African communities? What kind of impact has an art community like the African DIgital Art Network on society?

Art has the ability to transcend barriers. It is a powerful tool for communication. There are many untold stories in Africa and art has the ability to give African communities a way to express and share their stories and experiences. Art, especially digital art, is also a form of ingenuity that often fosters innovation. Through creative exercise new solutions are brought to light which often help empower individuals to improve their communities. In terms of development art can be a powerful weapon to motivate, inspire and direct individuals towards change.

What makes art good art?

This is a difficult question to answer. Art is truly subjective. However I find that the art that I consider “good” is the one that resonates with the audience. One of the things that I have found as an African digi-tal artist, is that there is an expectation of what is considered to be African art or “good” African art. We are still very limited in our scope of understanding what African art actually is. Unfortunately the majority of the world considers African art as mainly traditional masks, sculptures and paintings. Capturing Africa’s visual identity is simply beyond our grasp. It is a kaleidoscope – open to multiple interpretations and understandings. We can however engage the creative community to take part in a collective form of production. It clearly will help to shape our understanding of what it means to be African. The forms of expression that break the stereotypes are the ones I find most enjoyable.

What kind of role does art play in the African school / education system? Are there any special art schools?

Unfortunately there has been little development in art education in Africa. I would argue that the education system in Africa is designed to create doctors, lawyers and engineers and not too many artists. There are just not enough art programs in Africa. Many professional artists have received their education abroad and many struggle to find a sustain-able income in Africa, where art is not as valued. At the end of the day it all comes down to sustainability. The art industry in Africa is mainly geared towards foreign consumption. Art is mass produced for tourism and is undervalued within local communities.
Thanks to the recent World Cup in South Africa, the creative economy throughout Africa has been flourishing. More and more creative projects and professions are available to African artists. As the demand for more African inspired work continues I hope to see the education system, especially the higher education system, respond to the need for trained and skilled design professionals.

Digital art in Africa is a fairly new concept, isn’t it?

Yes indeed, it is fairly new. Before African Digital Art Network was created most people would have never put the words “Africa” “Digital” and “Art” together. The majority of the world does not see Africa from a digital perspective, they still see Africa as a place somehow stuck in the past. However as recent developments in mobile technology in Africa show, we are great early adopters. Africa is experiencing the same influx of technology as the rest of the world, we are on Facebook, on Twitter, we text each other and we share our experiences over the Internet.
As more artists are exposed to digital technology they are also exposed to new tools that they can utilize for their work. Digital art expressions are growing rapidly throughout countries such as Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. Young people who have grown up in this new connected society are experimenting with motion, video and sound.
We still have a long way to go, the statistics show that Africa is underrepresented in terms of access to ICT’s but we do have an influx of mobile technology that has inspired us to come up with new design solutions forour everyday experiences.

Art has always something to do with creativity. What does creativity mean for you and how can you nurture other peoples creativity?

Creativity is linked with innovation and it gives us a way of growing and inventing; experimenting, taking risks and breaking rules. Creativity for me is the ability to generate new ideas or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others and expressing and engaging myself with others.
I created the African Digital Art Network as a platform to foster and encourage new forms of creativity. We recently re-launched the social networking component of African Digital Art, The District. The District is a new platform we designed to get artists together and connect them with each other. On The District, African creatives can network, share their work and resources. They have the ability to collaborate, learn new skills and also promote their portfolio all within this space online.

You write on your website that you are dreaming digital ... what do you mean?

That is right, I often say I dream “digital” because I find the digital format the easiest way to express my own creativity. Digital technology has given me the ability to bring to life what is in my imagination. It has given me the ability to think of new possibilities and realities and offered me a unique way to imagine and shape the future.

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We_magazine Volume 04 Creative Commons

5 Things You Didn't Know About Africa
Emergent Africa
Africa is NOT A Country!
Stop Terrorism! Start Transformation!
Africa's Future − Ask China!
Change Has A Name: Mobile
Talking About A Revolution
Reload WE_africa
Spaces Of Freedom
Culture − A Life Affirming Joy
Kenya Matters
A Techie In Love With The Arts
Radio As A Force For Peace
You Beg, Borrow, Steal ;-)
For Men Only?
Africa's Global Community
I Want To Be A Computer Genius
Technology For Transparency
Memoirs Of A Slum Boy
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