The exhibition Afro-Tech and the Future of Re-Invention, curated by Inke Arns and Fabian Saavedra-Lara, puts Afrofuturism in dialogue with alternative technological solutions and imaginations. The speculative narratives unfolding in the artworks on display are confronted with actual inventions from maker scenes in different African countries.
This creates a double shift of perspective: while the artworks project decidedly African and diasporic sci-fi visions, the real devices appear as evidence of a technological development that is already underway. The exhibition thus presents Africa as a continent of technological innovation. The exhibition shows 20 international artistic positions and 12 tech projects from the maker scenes in various countries of Africa.
The starting point for this project was a research trip undertaken by Inke Arns through various African countries in 2014; one which drew her attention to the maker scene and the new technological devices, apps, software solutions and digital products that have been coming into being for some years now against the background of increasing digitisation and networking on the continent.
Many of these inventions have the goal of helping the community of users in everyday life and compensating for infrastructural problems. They often function according to principles of general accessibility and open source, which allow changes in design, repurposing and continuing development. They thus represent an alternative draft to the technological monocultures of the “global North” that dominate here.
The inventions presented in the exhibition appear as proofs of an already initiated technological development that could lead to a future not limited to the narrative of modernity and progress of the West – a future that is already shown to us now in excerpts by the artistic works in the exhibition. The artistic media used are videos, video installations, photography, drawings, records, software, sculptures and comics.
The 32 participating artists and tech projects come from 22 countries: Egypt, Angola, Australia, Germany, Benin, France, Ghana, the United Kingdom, Italy, Cameroon, Canada, Kenya, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Spain, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, the USA and the planet Saturn. Many of the artists and representatives of tech projects will be present at the exhibition.
The graphic design was developed by the Dortmund design agency KoeperHerfurth. The designers have discovered exciting parallels between Sun Ra’s Egyptianesque headdress (with solar disc and two U-shaped rays arranged around this disc) and the U at the peak of the Dortmunder U. The U functions in their designs as the ultimate Afrofuturistic symbol and as a link with the planet Saturn.
The exhibition scenography originates from the architect Ruth M. Lorenz (Berlin). She imagines the Dortmunder U as the mythical “mother ship connection”, almost as a kind of gigantic space cruiser, and the exhibition space of the HMKV as the mysterious, technoid and at the same time fascinating substructure of a space vessel about to take off.
Artists in the exhibition: Sherif Adel (EGY), John Akomfrah (GHA), Jean-Pierre Bekolo (CAM), Neïl Beloufa (FR), Frances Bodomo (GHA), Drexciya (US), Kiluanji Kia Henda (AGO), Louis Henderson (UK), Jaromil (IT/NL), Wanuri Kahiu (KEN), Kapwani Kiwanga (CAN/FR), Abu Bakarr Mansaray (SLE), Cristina de Middel (ESP), Fabrice Monteiro (BEN), Wangechi Mutu (KEN), The Otolith Group (UK), RAMMELLZEE (US), Tabita Rezaire (FR/ZA), Simon Rittmeier (DEU), Soda_Jerk (AUS).
Tech-projects in the exhibition: BRCK (KEN), CardioPad (CAM), Chowberry (NGA), CladLight (KEN), Educade (ZA), GiftedMom (CAM), Juakaliscope (KEN), Kayoola Solar Bus (UGA), M-PESA (KEN),Robohand (ZA), Shiriki Hub (RWA), Uko Wapi (DEU).