Afro-Tech and the Future of Re-Invention © HMKV
Cristina De Middel, Iko Iko aus "The Afronauts", 2012 © Cristina De Middel

Afro-Tech, and the Future of Re-Invention

Research and exhibition project – funded by the TURN Fund

Rwanda wants to become Africa’s Silicon Valley. The African Internet market is booming and promises lucrative returns. This development also means that conventions of Western technology are frequently imitated, thereby hindering alternative, radical and visionary inventions of contemporary technology. As an instrument of global communication, the Internet often shapes diverse cultures according to established standards. The end user – whether in Europe or Africa – is usually unaware of the ideologies inscribed in such technologies. As Frank Schirrmacher concluded in the FAZ in 2010, “technologies are more powerful ideologies than political ones”.

The project “Afro-Tech, and the Future of Re-Invention” by Hartware MedienKunstVerein examined the technological innovations on the African continent and the basic understanding of innovation, on which these are based. The exhibition investigated what intercultural dialogues, alternative narratives and postcolonial reflection on technology could look like: What potential do debates on emancipation and empowerment have in the current discussion about the consequences of digitalisation and networking? What views and demands define this interest? And what might a polycentric, networked world look like in a world where the technological centres are no longer located solely in the West, but also in the Global South?

“Afro-Tech, and the Future of Re-Invention” brought artists and cultural producers from several African countries together who wish to imagine, develop and use technologies based on non-Western standards. It presented projects which feature innovative and adaptive approaches and immense ingenuity, and envisions technology beyond prefabricated commercial products (e.g. in the form of urine-powered electrical generators). Furthermore, it does not view hacking and inventing as “necessary improvisation under trying circumstances”, but rather as a modern practice in step with the times. In this way, the exhibition sketched a connection between Afrofuturism and alternative technological energies and imaginations. The counter-narratives and speculations contained within the artistic pieces were presented in relation to real inventions from the maker scene.

A project week, organised in cooperation with Africa Positive e.V. at various venues in Dortmund, featured theme-related workshops, concerts and performances. The exhibition was developed in co-production with Interkultur Ruhr of the Ruhr Regional Association (RVR).

Curators: Inke Arns (DE), Fabian Saavedra-Lara (DE)
Participating artists: Jude Agnowih (NG), John Akomfrah (GH), Jean Pierre Bekolo (CM), Nerl Beloufa (FR), Anne Bergner (DE), Louis Henderson (NO), Martin Howse (GB), Denis Roio aka Jaromil (IT), Wanuri Kahiu (KE), Kapwani Kiwanga (CA), Abu Bakarr Mansaray (SL), Yvette Mutumba (DE), Emeka Okafor (US), Rachida Phillips (US), Rammellzee (US), Simon Rittmeier (DE), Bisi Silva (NG), Veye Tatah (DE), Juliet Wanyiri (KE)

21.10.2017 - 22.04.2018 Dortmunder U, Dortmund Exhibition