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Art meets VR in new Joburg exhibition

A new exhibition is set to give South Africans a taste of how virtual reality could turn the perception of art upside down. Called New Dimensions, the exhibition is part of the African Futures Festival and takes place from 29 to 31 October at the Goethe-Institut in Johannesburg.

According to a press release sent to Memeburn, viewers will be given the opportunity to step inside a number of 360-degree mini universes. Behind the scenes, prominent African artists and filmmakers will get the chance to engage with the new technology in a Virtual Reality Workshop and create brand new footage.

Among the works on offer is Clouds Over Sidra, which follows a 12-year old Syrian refugee from a camp in Jordan and Kaiju Fury!, which takes viewers inside a fantasy land of mutant creatures.

African Futures explores the continent’s engagement with ideas around the future through artistic expression in literature, fine arts, performance, music and film. The virtual reality show is curated by Ingrid Kopp and Steven Markowitz with further support from Blue Ice Docs and SDK Digital Lab.

In a closed workshop , the use of 360-degree immersive audio-visual software accessed by viewers through state-of-the-art headsets will also be experimented with by well known film-makers,writers,animators and other artists from across Africa from 24 to 27 October 2015, before the exhibition opens.

According to the exhibition organisers Big World Cinema and the Goethe- Institut, the aim of the workshop is to “deepen and expand the African footprint on the virtual global horizon”.

The organisers also say that the workshop will be followed up by the opportunity for participants to be commissioned to produce a piece in their country for exhibition across Africa and to showcase at various international festivals.

According to the organisers, virtual reality can be used to heal, escape, entertain, inform, enrich, inspire andeducate its virtual inhabitants by transporting them into different worlds.Until now, the vast majority of such projects have been produced outside Africa and the narratives have largely been seen through Western eyes.

Read more: Crossing the rift: why we can expect big things from South Africa’s growing VR industry

As South African filmmaker and Big World Cinema co-founder Steven Markovitz explains, “the continent now runs the risk of falling behind unless it starts to innovate its own Virtual Reality experiences . It must start to nurture and promote its own truly unique journey in all its multi-pronged glory. We are therefore seeking not just to showcase virtual reality but to build VR capacity among its African writers, photographers, film-directors, poets – to create a vibrant platform for the continent.”

Taking part in the workshop from Kenya will be Ng’endo Mukii, an award-winning film director most well-known for her documentary Yellow Fever on African women’s ideals of beauty, collaborating with acclaimed 3D animator Andrew Kaggia from Nairobi, who has worked on numerous popular television shows.

Also participating from Kenya will be prominent film director Jim Chuchu, whose latest award-winning film Stories of Our Lives, was banned in his home country for “promoting homosexuality” but is soon to be screened in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

South Africa,will be represented by Bogosi Sekhukhuni, a renowned conceptual artist and creative director selected by the Mail and Guardian newspaper as one of the country’s Top 200 Young South Africans.

Read more: Here are the winners and losers in Facebook’s $2bn Oculus VR deal

Paul Sika from the Ivory Coast aims to fuse photography, filmmaking and digital techniques, collaborating with fellow Ivorian Brissi Ziagnon, a leading web and graphic designer artist and software designer.

From Ghana, Jonathan Dotse, an Afrofuturist and writer will be collaborating with photographer and film-maker Kabiru Seidu who says that his interest in the field of virtual reality stems from his desire to recreate African history and imagine possible futures. The two Ghanaian artists recently formed NubianVR, an Accra-based virtual reality studio which produced Pandora, their first 360 degree short film which is being showcased at the exhibition.

From Senegal, avant-garde fashion designer Selly Raby Kane, known for her unbridled visual creativity and artistic influences, will collaborate with Moustapha Diop, a leading 3D graphic illustrator with a background in animation and passion for artistic creativity.

“If you want to have any idea of the world that is coming, the world ahead of us look at Africa,” says Afropolitan author and critic Achille Mbembe.

The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Author | Stuart Thomas

Stuart Thomas
Stuart is the editor-in-chief of Engage Me Online. After pursuing an MA in South African literature, he spent five years reporting on the global technology scene. Intrigued by the intersection of technology and work, he joined Engage Me as the editor-in-chief. He is a passionate runner, and recently ran... More