Tuesday, April 21, 2015

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Natascha Chtena's blog

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I couldn't help but get over-enthused about the 9th edition of this annual music festival in Zanzibar. With Nneka and Super Mazembe amongst its headliners, the event promises to be a haven for locals and musically enlightened adventurers alike. According to Sauti za Burasa's official website the event will feature:

“400 musicians: that’s forty groups, with twenty from Tanzania and twenty from other parts of Africa; urban and rural, acoustic and electric, established and upcoming.

Carnival Street Parade: setting alight the streets on Day 2, the biggest parade to hit Stone Town, including beni brass band, ngoma drummers, mwanandege umbrella women, stilt-walkers, capoeira dancers, acrobats… and surprises.

Four nights in the historic Old Fort: In Stone Town, the main programme continues Thursday through Sunday with non-stop 100% live performances (no playback!) daily from 5pm until 1am.

African Music Films: documentaries, music clips, videos and live concert footage.

Seminars and Training Workshops: Building skills for artists, managers, music journalists, filmmakers, sound and lighting technicians from the East Africa region.

Movers & Shakers: Daily networking forum for local and visiting arts professionals.

Festival marketplace: local food and drinks, music, jewellery, clothing and handicrafts.

Busara Xtra: Around the festival, the island is buzzing with a range of fringe events: traditional ngoma drum and dance, fashion shows, dhow races, open-mic sessions, after-parties and performances of Zanzibar’s oldest Taarab orchestras are all arranged by the local community.”

For more information, visit http://www.busaramusic.org/

Think Africa Press welcomes inquiries regarding the republication of its articles. If you would like to republish this or any other article for re-print, syndication or educational purposes, please contact: editor@thinkafricapress.com

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I will not do a 'preview' on Contested Terrains (the expo), because this is pretty much what everyone involved with contemporary African art in the UK is talking about at the moment: "What took Tate so long?", "Why now?", "Are they feeling behind or are there darker politics at play?" and you will in a couple of days be reading about in everywhere. To the above questions, it will probably be a while before we know.

Having said that, there is an event linked to the actual exhibition (opening July 29), which I want to suggest you check out, not least because I think it's really important to see the position Tate will take. This is not one of their many screenings but a talk, where actual curators will be talking about their approach towards African contemporary creativity. Surely, the press release  appears too apolitical and too anthropological but I want to think it's a trick. What the press release actually tells us is that:

"Contested Terrains artists Kader Attia, Michael MacGarry (he's the naughtier one, check him out) and Adolphus Opara discuss the ideas and processes behind their work with exhibition curators Kerryn Greenberg, Jude Anogwih and Bolanle Austen-Peters, Managing Director/CEO, Terra Kulture. The discussion will touch upon the role of research in artistic practice and of art in mediating the past and present."


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I was at the Royal Opera House very recently, observing Rufus Wainwright being breathtaking and very openly gay. He was very sweet and kind and cheeky and most of his comments, I am sure, registered in the mind of the audience as the comments of a naughty little boy who's too cute to be mad at. But there was a moment when he declared he'd be having "lots of sex" with his fiance very soon and the opera went "aaaaaaaah". You could feel not everyone approved and it was then that I realized how essential open conversation (and confrontation) still is (two thumbs up Rufus). 

So this is partly why I will be making my way to South London Gallery on July 29th (also partly because I love Zanele Muholi's work, see below) to join their event about 'queer Africa', curated by Jennifer Bajorek (Goldsmiths) and introduced by Natasha Bissonauth (Cornell University). Photographer Andrew Esiebo will be showing his multimedia work Living Queer African (Paris, 2007), which explores the lives of young queer Africans in Europe. Esiebo shares the spotlight with visual activist Zanele Muholi (seen at the V&A and Southbank recently) and her documentary Difficult Love (South Africa, 2010), which presents intimate stories from the black lesbian community in South Africa. 

Friday 29th July, 7 - 9pm, FREE admission

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I wanted to write a happy post, but instead I am going to share my thoughts on a Shubbak experience (and a should-have-been-highlight) which deeply troubled me. On Friday I went to the Barbican to experience "A Night in Tahrir Square", a night which promised to pretty much be the Woodstock of the Arab Spring. Acoustic, highly politicized and deeply emotional, for the majority of the (Arabic speaking) audience it most possibly was. People where crying, laughing, waving flags and singing along. It was clear that the performers where both proud and touched to be representing their homeland on such an occasion.

But throughout most of the night, not a word of English was spoken, leaving the non-Arabic-speaking audience at a loss. "This song is called - insert some Arabic title -" does really not count. What where the songs about, what was the significance of each of them? I'm pretty sure I am not alone in saying that there were people eager to understand, eager to get involved who where completely overlooked, if not disrespected. I believe the evening should have been more than a close-circle celebration of the Egyptian culture or it shouldn't have taken place at a venue like the Barbican. It should have been a night of celebration for the 'East' and a night of education for the 'West', bear that in mind future organizers. As it was it was both politically incorrect and (politically) pointless. A to-the-point review that captures the failures of the event but also gives a pretty comprehensive view and what was actually happening, can be found here.

So, having gotten that out of my system I can now dedicate some lines to the small but engaging exhibition of the Jameel prize 2011 at the V&A. For those of you who are (understandably) unfamiliar with the prize, it as a is a biannual international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition, launched by the V&A and supported by Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel (and which has been gaining more and more influence over the years). Ten artists have been shortlisted for this year's prize, all drawing strongly from their own local and regional traditions, celebrating particular materials and iconography with strong references to traditional Islamic art: Noor Ali Chagani (Pakistan),Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (Iran), Bita Ghezelayagh (Iran), Babak Golkar (Canada), Aisha Khalid (Pakistan), Hayv Kahraman (Iraq), Rachid Koraichi (Algeria),Hazem El Mestikawy (Egypt), Hadieh Shafie (Iran), Soody Sharifi (Iran).

Although I was really looking forward to seeing Hayv Kahraman's work - I usually love her graceful and low-key approach to the discussion of female identity in Iraq - I found her three selected artworks (dealing with issues of migration) a little too 'quiet' for the non-specialist audience. I was struck by Aisha Khalid's creation "Name, Class, Subject"(an artists book inspired by the exercise or 'copy books' used by government schools in Pakistan to teach writing in Urdu and English) instead, and the issues it raises concerning bilingual societies which are becoming all the more common as English spreads throughout the continents. A line in the book that claimed English speakers where considered during the artist's youth culturally superior to Urdu speakers I found particularly poignant and touching. Having said that, I don't think she will be the winner this year.

Another favourite was Soody Sharifi who looks at how things have changed for recent generations, touching on collisions between Islamic cultural heritage and modern life in digital collages where photos of Muslin youth culture are interlaced with Persian miniature paintings. I think she's one of the most serious contenders. Last, I want to make a point about Hadieh Shafie's paper scroll artworks inspired by the Sufi philosophy and tradition. It was one of the artworks that appeared the least impressive from afar, but totally took you by surprise upon closer observation (and, well, the curatorial description was useful in that case). With handwriting that becomes invisible in the larger installation her paper scroll works demonstrate a constant element of her work which is the significance of process, repetition and time, all rooted in the influence of Islamic art and craft.

The winner of The Jameel Prize 2011 will be announced at the V&A on 12 September 2011. More info here.

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Shubbak has had quite some coverage in the wider media so far, we've reported on the Poet in the City event "Poetry from the Arab Spring" and tried to catch as many of its mind-blowing shows and events as possible (we weren't as successful as we would have liked, mind). But, while the festival has been running from the beginning of this month, it looks like things are heating up only now, with a calendar of events so rich its overwhelming.

I'll dedicate this post to the upcoming one-day (or mini) events and a second post to a series of exhibitions which you can take your time to plan and enjoy.

1. Ahmed Bouanani Mirage, 22.07.11 @ Tate Modern

Tate Modern presents a film that is considered a landmark experiment in Moroccan cinema. Mirage (1979, 100 min) incorporates folk fables and popular symbols into a story about a working class Moroccan man who discovers money in a flour bag. It is the beginning of a story between past and future, between silence and cries but at the end seems as an illusion.

2. A Night in Tahrir Square, 22.07.11 @ The Barbican Centre

The Barbican Centre presents a celebration of Arabic people power with an exceptional line-up of artists including singer-songwriter, Ramy Essam; Egypt's most famous street music ensemble , El Tanbura; Azza Balba, former wife of Egypt's greatest living poet, Ahmed Fouad Negm and Mustafa Said, an Eyptian singer, composer and virtuoso of the oud.

3. The Bidoun Library Saturday Seminar. Speaker: Nawal el Saadawi , 23.07.11 @ Serpentine Gallery

As part of The Bidoun Library residency at Serpentine Gallery, leading authors, scholars and artists are in dialogue with the Bidoun editorial collective every Saturday at 3pm from 12 July - 11 September. Nawal El Saadawi is an Egyptian feminist writer, physician, psychiatrist and a militant advocate of Arab women's rights. Despite her books being banned, and a period of detention under the Sadat regime, she has continued to write about the problems and struggles of Arab women and has gained a considerable reputation in the English-speaking world through her books The Hidden Face of Eve, a study of women in Arab society, and Woman at Point Zero, a novel.

4. A Glimpse at Contemporary Arab Choreography & Free Debate, 22-23.07.11 @ Sadler's Wells

As part of Shubbak, Sadler's Wells is host to two unique dance artists. Radhouane El Meddeb, from Tunisia, invites us to mix the pleasures of the belly and the soul in a tasteful performance I dance and I feed you, and Nacera Belaza from Algeria performs her award-winning piece The Scream. Both artists also take part in a free debate discussing Preconception and Identity in the Arab World on Saturday 23 July at 4pm (booking required).

Details on the programming/ venue info/ tickets/ etc. HERE.

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I was meaning not to cover Jack Bell for a while, having raved about his previous 3 shows and published an interview with him fairly recently. But then I visited his latest THE BATTLE FOR ABIDJAN: PAINTINGS BY ABOUDIA ABDOULAYE DIARRASSOUBA and I couldn't avoid being affected by the intensity, immediacy and unpretentious complexity of Aboudia's work. The conflicted inner mind of the artist immersed as surprisingly pure and energetic through the layers of armed soldiers, bold text, newspaper clippings, ominous skulls and photographs. "Often claustrophobic and oppressive", as the press release notes, "his painting achieves a careful balance between pathos and aggression". I was particularly drawn to the raw and dirty style of Aboudia's work which brought into my mind Basquiat, obviously, but also lesser known representatives of the art brut tradition. Asking Jack, I found out that the artist has a background in street art.
Aboudia was born in 1983 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and this particular set of paintings have been influenced by the riots that followed the disputed Ivorian presidential election in late 2010. As the violence escalated, daily life in Ivory Coast and particularly the capital Abidjan was thrown into turmoil. In March 2011 the conflict reached a crisis point and the country broke down into civil war. During this period the artist took refuge in a basement studio, where he produced work responding to the horrors of the country's devastating political situation.
The show had already sold out by the time I visited, which is far from insignificant given that Aboudia has never before exhibited abroad. As Jack Bell Gallery is about to move to a more central location in London by the end of this month, make sure you pop by to have a look asap!
For images of the works on show click here. You can also "like" Aboudia here.

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Created in 2008, Sandbox is a cutting-edge global community of young achievers aged below 30. With 16 hubs in four continents, the network continues to grow worldwide by identifying and 'incubating' exceptional young people in an environment where they can link-up with like-minded peers, learn from senior leaders and gain access to opportunities that will help their careers and hopefully help solve the most challenging problems of large organizations and governments.

As the network introduces its first hub in Africa - in Nairobi, Kenya - I met with Co-Founder and Director of Sandbox, Christian Busch (pictured, preparing for a TED talk), to discuss Africa’s entrepreneurship potential, the significance of an elite education, community psychology and how Sandbox dinners and events are where the magic really happens.

Out of what need was Sandbox born?

We had a feeling that there was no real meeting place for people who are truly passionate about doing extraordinary things, and who try to push the boundaries within different fields. We thought how cool would it be to create a meeting space where the most amazing people from different areas could meet up and move beyond their own networks and their own fields, and connect with those like-minded people who have similar ambitions. In that spirit, we tried to come up with a framework for identifying such individuals all over the world, then also creating the kind of trust between them in order to build meaningful relationships. That’s why we believe Sandbox is much more than just connecting people, it’s really all about building a family of extraordinary friends who then incubate each other in an environment through which they get access to resources that allow them to grow and “graduate as role models” by the time they are 30.

How does it go beyond mere socializing and where does change/action come about?

I believe it starts with the selection. The selection is based not only on whether someone is an entrepreneur or is pushing the boundaries in their field, but especially on the question of what they can contribute to the community. We believe that all those people individually are amazing movers, but if they worked together, they could achieve even more. Individuals, in fact, join with the idea that they will be part of a community where people help each other, which means much more than mere socializing. Also, we have very active local communities and ambassadors in those 18 “hubs”, as we like to call them, like Sebastian Lindstrom in Nairobi, who make sure that the people involved are feeling that they are all “together” to take action. We are convinced that the true, big collaborations come about over years, as you develop trust amongst people. Then, the great opportunities come up through the amazing people that you have around you, not based on a transaction where you say “Oh there’s an amazing big project, let’s join it”. Having said that, we also have fixed projects where we try to get Sandboxers involved, before approaching larger organizations and trying to basically solve the issues at hand.

But how does this work locally?

Locally, at dinners for example, people discuss their honest challenges, as opposed to the ones they might mention at a conference just because they sound cool. If you are in an environment where you feel comfortable and where you can honestly share your challenges, that really pushes you forward.

You recently returned from a three week trip to Kenya. What exactly was the trip regarding, was it like an “inauguration” of the Nairobi hub?

When we usually start a hub, what we do first is informally build a community of people. So Sebastian went there five months ago with the What Took You So Long Foundation crew, identified the right people from different fields and built-up an informal community; then we made him ambassador. When we launch a new hub, we always try to send out one of our team members to meet people locally so, yes, in a way, one could say it was a sort of “inauguration” of the Nairobi hub. We especially believe that there is potential for a true community in Nairobi and what we believe to be a strong “ecosystem” of partners.

Is this “ecosystem” self-sustainable?

No. You obviously need the community, but then around the community you have to build ties with strong corporates, capitalists and incubators, like the iHub or the mLab in Nairobi. I think one great thing I learned in Kenya, and which I found very exciting, is that there is a true eagerness in exactly those kind of people to get involved with the younger generation. There was a strong disconnection so far: on the one hand the old elites, the old governments, the “old people”, who always kind of close down, and on the extreme other, the youth. Today, I think, we have the first elite individuals who actually want to showcase and support real role models, instead of the stereotypical kind of people who have been making their money through channels that we shouldn’t probably discuss here. Individuals who you feel are trying to give this younger generation a chance by allowing some very special 28-29-year-olds to inspire role models for younger kids.

Do you think that in order to be a successful young entrepreneur strong ideas, commitment, versatility and the like are enough? Or are family ties and a certain education still the defining factors?

I’m doing a PhD in social entrepreneurship at the LSE, and I’m looking exactly at those kinds of questions. Part of our Kenya tour was also about trying to understand how you can make sure that social entrepreneurs - but also other entrepreneurs who have the perseverance, who have potentially the ability to do special things - are nurtured and brought forward. And the interesting thing is that their success relies on a combination of what you mentioned. On the one side, especially in societies like a lot of Kenyan parts, success in any form is still unfortunately based too much on the old kind of social structures and too little on performance ability. On the other, the chance that I see now is that this is breaking up because of the initiatives that I just mentioned. I believe that if you create the kind of ecosystems where accessibility is not defined by the idea of who knows who by birth, but is more defined by the people you meet on the way, you can change prevailing social structures. People like the iHub, for example, where you can just jump in and those people see with who you would potentially work well with, these are great initiatives where you can get away from the old idea that, even if you were a great kid in Kibera, there was really no way to climb up because it was just not accessible to you. I think now there are more channels. Yes, a lot still depends on what context you come from, but then if you bring the right perseverance, especially through social media now, there is such a great chance to directly get access to people that you wouldn’t have access to before. I think that if you are resourceful enough - as resource is the new capital - you can do it. Basically, the reason why social media are so important is that they connect people who care with people who want.

How do you assess potential Sandboxers in places like Nairobi?

In the Western context it is of course much easier to assess people, because we are more familiar with what makes someone in the West successful. When you have a slum kid in Kibera, that creates amazing design objects by recycling used material, it is much tougher to evaluate whether they can achieve a lot themselves, but also whether they have the potential to inspire others, to be real role models, which is what we want from them. I think the problem that I see with a lot of ideas is that people bring in their ideas and then they think “OK, it’s the bringing in of the idea that matters”. But what people actually invest in, whether you are talking about financial or about social capital, is not the idea itself, it’s the person behind the idea. It’s the question of who actually the person is and whether they can implement their idea. What I find most exciting is that the people in the Nairobi context understand that if they have a brilliant idea, they have to find a way to build a network of trust around themselves, rather than around the idea, and then they can take it form there. And we are exactly the kind of network for that.

Sandbox is “starting off” in Africa with the Nairobi hub. What’s next?

We want to expand to Ghana and South Africa.

On what criteria do you base your choice of hubs, particularly in the context of Africa?

On the one hand, our choice depends on the potential to build up an innovation community at a given location, so the question of what is the entrepreneur capacity there, who are the potential partners there, how can we enter the community or the market - market is a bad word though -  the local sphere if you might. On the other, it is the question of how a potential hub fits into the global vision of Sandbox. At the moment, the way we expand is that we target the main innovators in certain parts of the world and then we create a list and decide based on the factors I named above.

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Just received a notification that my favourite museum (the Brooklyn Museum in New York, that is) acquired Mounir Fatmi's skateboard installation Maximun Sensation (2010).
It's a brilliant sample of conceptual art that sees 50 skateboards carpeting the floor, each covered with a colorful patchwork collage pieced together from fragments of prayer rugs. Referring to the Muslim act of prayer and to skateboard culture, two divergent cultural practices whose reach has expanded well beyond their original roots, Maximum Sensation examines the collision and coexistence of cultures that occur with greater frequency in this era of globalization. The piece, suggesting both cultural displacement and cultural hybridity, seems to reflect Fatmi's own experience as a Moroccan-born artist living in Paris. As he remarked in a recent interview, "I am Moroccan, Arab, Muslim geographically, Mediterranean, African," acknowledging that identity is a construct that shifts depending on context. Like Save Manhattan, his much-admired piece in the 2007 Venice Biennale, which utilized stereo speakers to recreate the pre-September skyline of lower Manhattan, Maximum Sensation employs the strategy of defamiliarization to challenge fixed points of view.
About Mounir Fatmi:
Born 1970, Tangier, Morocco; Lives and works in Paris, France.
Mounir Fatmi constructs visual spaces and linguistic games that aim to free the viewer from their preconceptions. His videos, installations, drawings, paintings and sculptures bring to light our doubts, fears and desires. They directly address the current events of our world, and speak to those whose lives are affected by specific events and reveals its structure.

His work deals with the desecration of religious object, deconstruction and the end of dogmas and ideologies. He is particularly interested in the idea of death of the subject of consumption. This can be applied to antenna cables, copier machines, VHS tapes, and a dead language or a political movement. Although aesthetically very appealing, Mounir Fatmi's work offers a look at the world from a different glance, refusing to be blinded by the conventions.
Mounir Fatmi's work has been exhibited in the Migros Museum für Gegenwarskunst, Zürich, Switzerland, the Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf, Germany, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France, and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo Japan. He has participated in several biennials, among them the 52nd Venice Biennial, the 2nd Seville Biennial, Spain, the 8th biennial of Sharjah and the 10th Biennial of Lyon. Since 1993, he was awarded by several prize such as the Grand Prize at the 7th Dakar Biennial in 2006 and the Uriöt prize, Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam. He received the Cairo Biennial Prize in 2010.

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Mark Kaigwa is a 23-year-old Nairobi-based creative director/ filmmaker/ entrepreneur/ startup founder/ digital marketer/ speaker/ advisor & thought leader who has co-written an award-winning videogame for Warner Bros, led acclaimed animation workshops and worked with agencies, brands and small & medium sized businesses across Africa to build and sustain value from online communities. As a blogger for Memeburn, Afrinnovator and African Digital Art he caught my eye a while ago, so I was super excited to catch up with him recently and find out all I could about his unusual multi-tasking abilities...
Can you give us an overview of your projects and work?
I am part of some African blogs including Afrinnovator, AfricanDigitalArt and mark: my words (my own). Right now I'm changing up things a little career-wise, so I got some things I can chat about and a few others that I can't. Not for a few weeks at least. 
Can social media revolutionise Africa?
Not on its own. In and of itself it's just the means, and it's what we do with it that can revolutionise Africa. Across Africa and other emerging markets, social media is the #1 way people spend time on the internet, especially the mobile web as opposed to search which is #1 in developed countries. This shows how much root it has taken with Africans and coupled with the mobile phone, Africa is writing a new chapter of history for the innovation across the world.
Do you think that great education is a prerequisite for the effectiveness of social media or do you rather think that new media are such strong players in themselves, that they can overcome poor education or even the lack of it?
I think new media disrupts the old ways of education, but doesn't replace it. It helps if one has the foundations and principles of good communication and understanding how human beings interact and participate in media. The democratisation of information is great, but then again with information overload and cognitive surplus, it's as much where you look as what you look at. The mobile phone again offers new possibilities for education. Towards the future we could expect a shift from one laptop per child to one smartphone per child.
How did you become interested in media in the first place and where do you think their appeal lies?
My upbringing saw me interact within a family that celebrated and appreciated the arts, which isn’t common in Kenya. My aunt is an actress and my uncle a sculptor. My mother is an interior designer and these have always been strong influences on me. Besides that appreciating theatre and performance as well as good communication led me to naturally incline towards media. The appeal of media is getting a conversation going and not just passing a message from one person to the other but tapping into new networks of people to do this at a pace and with an impact not witnessed by previous generations.
You have quite a career in animation, advertising and communication consulting. I was wondering, what have you studied and have you found it useful for your subsequent path?
I studied a number of things in very different learning environments. Business Information Technology and a course in Mobile Programming at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Leadership and Youth Ministry at an Institute in the United States and most recently learning business in a business acccelerator program as part of the Fellowship program at The Sinapis Group.
You mention amongst other Strathmore, which is a private university in Nairobi. Do you feel you would have had the same chances had you gone to a public school?
This is difficult to say. Private university allows you to begin studies as early as 3 months after you finish high school as opposed to 9 months to a year before you get into public university. My parents didn't want me hanging around, but regardless I think I think the point in time I was at in my life and the environment I got into right after school shaped a large part of who I am today.
Do you need inspiration, do you believe in it or do you perhaps think it is an overrated concept?
I believe in renewal and inspiration as part of that process, I spend a lot of time online reading and going through content from great curators and online sources and that has become part of how I renew my mind. I also believe that inspiration is at times a blank page. I think some of my best ideas come not at the keyboard, but at my Moleskine notebook.
How are great (or even revolutionary) ideas born?
From threads of thought, correlated or not, threads of thought weaved and stitched together by sharing and openly discussing, critiquing and experimenting with the strands. I think the best ideas are those that are shared and spread among people. This is the genesis of a great idea.
What do you think is lacking nowadays in the advertising/ visual communication world (if anything)?
I'd say it differs from place to place. Globally we're seeing the new dimension of narrative and storytelling picking up and taking over from traditional static advertising. Participation is a key theme in how messages come across and this is a trend seen most recently in some of the big winners at Cannes this year. Closer to home, Africa’s been looking at a crystal ball of what’s going on globally and South Africa’s the hotbed of creative talent and putting award-winning work on the world stage. Kenya’s got some ways to go, but don’t get me started on that.
Although I don't know your exact age I can tell from your websites that you have been active in the world of online media and communication for quite a while. How have seen their impact and that of the internet in general in Africa alter over the years (if at all)?
I'm 23 years old but I've had a very different career path. I started working early when I got selected to write Warner Bros. first (and only) African videogame Pamoja Mtaani. I've been lucky enough to also travel a whole lot and experience learning and cultures across the world. One thing I'm certain of is that Africa's been changing over the past few years. 
You are involved with the website AfricanDigitalArt.com among many things. How important do you think are platforms like ADA, which are clearly built on Western models of communication for emerging African artists?
The thing about the way people perceive the internet and what it holds is not as something that comes from the web or from anywhere but more as a sandbox. Historically, it did come from the West, but no one views it this way. With AfricanDigitalArt.com there’s such an amazing creative class of African professionals across the continent and the world and for them to have a place to convene, create and collaborate is amazing.
Do you see contemporary African (or Kenyan in particular) art reflecting social and political realities more perhaps than "Western" conceptual art? What can contemporary Kenyan artists offer to the country through their work?
Africa’s rich history of textiles, craftsmanship and culture blend in to give a source of inspiration like no other place on earth. With this, as artists are indeed reflect popular culture and local reality you have styles, artists and techniques that emerge as a result. Both in contemporary art and in traditional art. I think Kenyan artists offer up a voice and rich critique.
Do you have any favourite artists? If I wanted to get a sense of what's going on artistically at the moment in Nairobi where would I have to start?
Hard to say. Very hard to say. Really feeling Kronk, Ola Olowu and Lulu Kitololo.
I noticed on your facebook, in the "About me" section you mention: Changing the way the world views Africa. What do you want to change about the world views Africa? What are some of the greatest misconceptions you feel?
I think the African narrative has been more of an image and less of a conversation or dialogue and I’m passionate about changing this. There’s more to Africa than lions, war and diamonds. In the years to come the world will be looking to Africa to learn about using the mobile web for innovation in community, culture and commerce.
How many hours per day do you spend online? Are you happy with the amount of time you invest in the virtual world or do you occasionally fantasise about disappearing somewhere remote where no new media can get hold of you?
8-10 hours a day, even more sometimes or less. It's been one of the biggest things in my career, thanks in large part to Twitter which I've been on for 4 years. I've travelled the world because of it and have met some brilliant people as a result. I'm dependent on the web but I'm glad to unplug and get off the grid from time to time. 
What do you think is the greatest social media website so far and why?
Social Network, hard to argue with Facebook. It very well could be the internet as we know it in a few years. 
Can you share with us some future projects that you are currently developing?
In the coming weeks! Good things though!

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I'm quite curious about this event at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, which mixes the spoken word with acoustic music. I like the spontaneity it oozes along with the kind of laid back feel which is hard to find in the larger and more official congregations of the British (and probably any) capital. In their press release they describe the planned evening as:

"A diverse range of acts from traditional African 'mbira' music from our very own Sitholé brothers, comedy, dramatic sketches and visual presentations. Guaranteed that no two events are the same on this platform for seasoned and new performers. Open mic for those who want to share in the fun and easy-going spirit of the evening."

Friday 8 July 2011, 7:30pm, FREE admission, CCA 4 (cinema)

About Seeds of Thought:

Seeds of Thought is a non-funded group that aims to promote the sharing of cultures through poetry, art and music. The group was started by 3 people in 2006; Ernest and Tawona Sithole, brothers from Zimbabwe, and close friend Tarneem Al Mousawi from Bahrain. It's not intentionally a multi-cultural group, but defaults as such due to the background of the founders and members. The ethos of the group is that everyone's voice deserves to be heard - a seed to plant and we help each other in tending to the seeds. The group is open to all adults and is free.

They have a writing group that meets fortnightly at St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, and we host a monthly performance evening at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow. Seeds of Thought challenged their members to create an original 'illustrated poem' to explore individual interpretations of conflict.

View a short docu on their work here.