Greetings, my fellow sojourners,

I’m pleased to finally return with great news — after eight years of running this blog, and two years of experimenting with the latest developments in virtual and augmented reality technology, I’m launching a digital hypermedia publishing house under the banner of AfroCyberPunk Interactive. I’m extremely excited about the prospects for creating new forms of narrative experiences that transcend the limitations of the contemporary imagination. I would like nothing more than to play a role in defining this new landscape, and to help create opportunities for artists and creators of all persuasions to do the same. You can learn more about this new focus on the About page:

AfroCyberPunk was created by Jonathan Dotse in 2010 as a blog focused on exploring the creative potential of African science fiction and speculative narratives. In 2017, AfroCyberPunk Interactive was established in Accra, Ghana, as a digital hypermedia publishing house with the aim of producing innovative and accessible new forms of interactive experiences. Our roots in afrofuturism continue to inspire the recurrent themes, motifs, and aesthetics of our publications. We aspire to emulate the spirit of great and small publishing houses throughout history in our pursuit of editorial excellence, while striving to address the global imbalance in the representation of marginalized peoples and perspectives. Our goal is to publish an extensive catalog of digital art featuring a wide variety of unique voices, experiences, and imagined worlds that will bring a new kind of magic to storytelling.

Read more…

I know very well that many people will have been expecting news about my novel, and I can understand why some of you are disappointed that this blog has not been given the attention it deserves. The truth is that my own personal struggles over the years have made it extremely difficult to maintain a consistent pace, in addition to the fact that I had no ambitions regarding the blog when it began. In the first few months alone, it far exceeded what little expectations I had. I might well have abandoned it long ago if not for the support of an amazingly generous donor (who wishes to remain anonymous) who has hosted this website for the past eight years. Likewise, the completion of my novel has been hindered by a laundry list of issues, not least of which has been my lifelong obsession with hypermedia.

Perhaps the main reason I still haven’t produced a version of my novel that I’m satisfied with (besides crippling writer’s block, of course) is that I’ve found it quite impossible to express myself in words in a way that remains true to the story I actually want to tell. Those who have followed this blog very closely may remember from my interview with Johnny Laird that my very first foray into fiction was writing hyperlinked stories. Some of the first computer programs I wrote, circa the turn of the century, were digital hypermedia stories. I’ve been imagining, exploring, and building interactive virtual world-narratives for as long as I can remember. My visual style of writing is evidence of my attempts to incorporate multiple dimensions of sensory detail into the stories I tell — the result of which is at best an incomplete translation of my original vision, or a complete digression at worst. I want to tell stories with words, but not only with words — with light and sound and space and time as well, and with the same eloquence and level of articulation that is possible in a text.

This focus on hypermedia is a certainly new direction for AfroCyberPunk, but it’s been a long time coming as far as I’m concerned. The current explosion of new media technologies now provides the opportunity for anyone to engage with the world using an astounding array of digital tools and resources, many of which are free and open-source, or low-cost and widely accessible. AfroCyberPunk Interactive is committed to developing an open-source software toolkit to create and publish our content, all of which will be available as mobile applications, initially for Android and later iOS, once our toolkit is stable. My own novel most certainly will be published as a digital “hyperbook” — a format we’re still in the process of defining, and which will ultimately be shaped by the novel itself. Unfortunately, I can’t share any concrete details about the publication of my novel just yet, but I’ll provide more information as soon as it’s being finalized.

Our very first publication, scheduled for release later this month, will be a slightly reworked version of “Pandora”, which was also my first VR film.  The new version will feature significant improvements to the film’s image and post-production quality, but additionally will showcase some of the standard features you can expect from our publications in the future. We’re still in the process of assembling our core team, but everyone will be introduced as things stabilize in the coming weeks and months. Rest assured that the blog will not be sidelined — far from it — I’ll be focusing on it more than ever before, since it’s now literally my job, and hopefully I’ll be getting some more hands on deck soon.

Many thanks to everyone who has supported AfroCyberPunk from the beginning! I’m extremely fortunate to have received so much goodwill and support from so many amazing people all around the world, without whom I couldn’t possibly have made it this far. I’m thrilled to announce that AfroCyberPunk Interactive is officially aliiive! and ready to take the known universe by storm. Join us in navigating the next phase of this amazing journey — there are worlds upon worlds to be discovered!

The Virtual Revolution has arrived in Africa and it’s here to stay. Last year I was in Johannesburg where I attended the African Futures festival to participate in a panel  as well as the VR Africa workshop, in collaboration with Big World Cinema. Pandora was also featured in the New Dimensions VR exhibition, which took place during the festival, and was curated by Ingrid Kopp, Creative Director at the Tribeca Film Institute. More from the organizers about the workshop:

The aim of this project is to introduce African storytellers and artists to VR, provide support and mentorship to them in the development and production of their ideas, and to start introducing African and audiences to African-­‐produced VR. We also intend to expose our African-­‐produced VR to the rest of the world through partnerships and relationships with existing festivals and exhibition spaces.

The workshop brought together six teams of participants from  South Africa, Kenya, Senegal, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Uganda. I attended with Kabiru Seidu, who is the co-founder of Nubian VR to represent Ghana/Nigeria.  It was truly inspiring to work alongside some of the most creative minds in Africa to explore the conceptual possibilities of virtual reality as an entirely new medium of expression. We even made a feature on a CNN article about the workshop.

I was very much impressed by the ambition and efforts of the organizers in bringing these event together, and I’m really excited about the VR projects we will be collaborating on in the near future. This entire trip was a great opportunity for Nubian VR, and we didn’t waste the opportunity to do some live action VR recording while we were out on the trail. You can view a 360 video of the final concert with Gato Preto live at the Alexander Theater in Braamfontein.

 
This year, I collaborated on a project for the Dakar Biennale, called Elsewhen, organized by the Dakar based fashion designer Selly Raby Kane. The Elsewhen project was a creative exploration of a fictional African city in an alternate universe, brought to life through the imaginations of seven different artists from across the continent. My own intervention was in creating the storyworld in the form of short fiction, as well as a mixed reality installation which used elements of virtual and augmented reality to transport viewers into a reconstruction of this alternate universe. The virtual experience was designed for Gear VR, using the Vuforia SDK for the augmented reality interface.

The installation featured a hexagonal podium inside a geodesic dome that represented the portal into Elsewhen. A portrait of an Akan mask was used as the trigger image for an augmented reality interface which initiated the transition to the virtual world. The audio was split between a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and a subwoofer installed beneath the podium, which added a tactile dimension (subsonic vibrations!) to the experience.

 

After witnessing the reactions of about 300 people who tried the experience, I’m utterly convinced that virtual reality has a future in Africa. Mobile technology will be critical to adoption because of the accessibility it offers. Millions of people in Africa already have one half of a VR device in their hands, and that number will only keep rising. I really look forward to the day when African kids casually boot up virtual environments and use their imaginations to shape the architecture of the metaverse. These are early days still, but the future is looking brighter by the minute.

I’m very excited to finally announce the release of PANDORA – an experimental 360-degree virtual reality short film made in Accra, Ghana. The film is an experimental attempt to create a uniquely African VR experience while re-imagining the myth of Pandora, ultimately to provoke critical thought about the unforeseen consequences of technological progress.  The film was directed by myself and produced with Kabiru Seidu, a colleague with whom I also teamed up to organize a VR exhibition at the 2015 CHALE WOTE Street Art Festival, where this film was first presented.

The PANDORA project was sponsored by Accra [dot] Alt, organizers of CHALE WOTE and crusaders of the underground art scene in Accra. The part of “Pandora” was played by Doris Mamley Djangmah. Angelantonio Grossi was instrumental in providing technical assistance during post-production. The film features the soundtrack Second Class Citizen by Dexter Britain.

For the full 360-degree experience of PANDORA, use the latest version of Chrome, Firefox, or the YouTube mobile app:

 

Working with virtual reality has been one of my lifelong dreams which is finally metamorphosing into reality. I’ve been designing VR headsets since I was a kid, but I only started building real (as in working) models in November last year when I first discovered the joys of Google Cardboard. This year Kabiru and I joined forces to organize the PANDORA VR exhibition at the 2015 Chale Wote Street Arts festival, and to create NubianVR, an Accra-based VR content production company dedicated to creating immersive, interactive multimedia experiences for a diverse range of applications. The PANDORA project was our first attempt at producing a 360-degree video, but we’re building our capacity to produce high-quality VR content in the near future.

This short film was screened on custom-built headsets featuring several additions to the Google Cardboard design, including a flexible plastic case, 2” lenses (90+ FOV), independently adjustable IPD, passive ventilation, integrated audio and USB power/data interfaces. The footage was recorded with a dual Kodak SP360 camera rig in one weekend and stitched together during the editing stage. Everyone who took part in the exhibition (kids and adults) got a chance to try out the 3-minute VR experience for free, most of them for the very first time.

I’ll be revealing more about NubianVR in the weeks and months ahead as we continue to establish ourselves and define our focus. I’ll also talk about some exciting projects and events lined up on the calendar. From my viewpoint, 2016 looks set to become the turning point for virtual reality as an entirely new medium of expression, one which has the potential to completely transform the way in which we create and share experiences. VR is already laying its foundations in Africa, and you can be sure it’s here to stay. I’m thrilled to be playing a part in all this, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

I recently stumbled across this beautiful mix and interview by King Britt which explores the diverse expressions of Afrofuturism in African American music. Cosmic Culture is a classic compilation that highlights some of the most influential and progressive artists in African American musical history. King Britt weaves a magical thread from an eclectic variety of genres and takes the listener on a journey into a world of psychedelic jazz, funk, and dub. This world is a higher dimension teeming with the gods and mythical beings of African American music — Sun Ra, Parliament Funkadelic, Miles Davis and others — with each sonic experience transitioning seamlessly across a dreamlike soundscape. In the interviews King Britt and others discuss how these sounds played a pivotal role in shaping the development of contemporary Afrofuturism.

King Britt explains the background to this mix on Okayfuture:

I was asked a few months ago to curate a show on Afrofuturism and its influences on me and my compositional work. Afrofuturism is a term originated by Mark Dery who did an essay in the New York Times in 1995 called “Black To The Future.” It became a very famous term among Afro American musicians who embrace Science Fiction, realities of space and time, and who tend to look at other worlds, comic books, and that sort of thing, as a way of escape. You have authors like Octavia Butler who wrote Kindred and other amazing books, Kodwo Eshun who wrote More Brilliant Than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction, which really go into breaking down what Afrofuturism is. But basically it is the African American sound that embraces Science Fiction pioneered by artists Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Sun-Ra, Parliament Funkadelic, DJ Spooky, just to name a few.

You can listen to the Cosmic Culture mix here or on King Britt’s Soundcloud.

Track List

Part 1: Yesterday

  • “Kawaida” -Kawaida
  • “Gamla Stan” – Don Cherry
    plus: an interview with Alondra Nelson
  • “Ostinato” – Herbie Hancock (as Mwandishi)
  • “John McLaughlin” – Miles Davis
  • “Space Is the Place (Live)”- Sun Ra
    plus: an interview with Pearl Britt
  • “Feel”- George Duke
  • “Rien Neva Plus” – Funk Factory
  • “Cabral” – Mtume feat. Dee Dee Bridgewater
  • “Radhe Shyam” – Alice Coltrane
    plus: an interview with Sun Ra

Part 2: Today (Megamix)

  • “African Roots”- King Tubby
  • “Eyjafjallajokul” – Mad Professor
  • “Zodiac Shit” – Flying Lotus
  • “Ahoulaghuine Akaline (King Britt Remix)” – Bombino
  • “Teleport” – Headless Headhunters
  • “Nights Over Nantes” – Jneiro Jarel
  • “Castles” – HouseShoes feat. Jimetta Rose
  • “Brgundy” – MndDsgn
  • “Connect” – Some Other Ship
  • “All in Forms (Leatherette Remix)” – Bonobo
  • “Light Odyssey” – Union
  • “Planetary Analysis” – King Britt feat. Rich Media
  • “Discipline 3” – Ras G
    plus: an interview with Sun Ra
  • “Heritage Ship” – Madlib
  • “Emotional Quotient Deringer of Chiek Anta Diop” -King Britt feat. Rilners Jouegck
  • “New Wave” -Common feat. Stereolab
  • “The Stars Are Singing Too” – Build an Ark
  • “Bug in the Bassbin” – Innerzone Orchestra
  • “Raven” – Actress
  • “Voodoo Ray” – A Guy Called Gerald
  • “Dem Young Scones” – Moodymann
  • “Flower (King Britt’s Underwater Garden Dub Remix)” – Soul Dhamma
  • “Planet Rock” – Afrika Bambaataa
  • “Mozaik” – Zomby
  • “Endgame” – Antipop Consortium
  • “Loveless” – 4Hero feat. Ursula

Part 3: Tomorrow

  • “Beyond the Sun (Live)” – Fhloston Paradigm
  • “Endeavors for Never (The Last Time We Spoke You Said You Were Not Here. I Saw You Though.)” – Shabazz Palaces

Via: Visual Melt and Okayfuture

This weekend I hit the streets of Accra to immerse myself in the explosion of creativity that is the annual Chale Wote Street Art Festival. The festival has been held every year since 2011 and is essentially an arts workshop that turns an entire street in Jamestown, Accra into an open-ended canvas for artists of all types to leave their mark on the city. And for a couple of days each year, that winding stretch of urban terrain truly feels as if it’s been reclaimed by “the people.”

This time I took the opportunity to do a bit of photojournalism and tried to capture some of the most interesting scenes I encountered. The quality and diversity of the art seems to keep getting better each year, and the vibe is always spontaneous and chilled out. It’s definitely one of the best ways to spend a Saturday afternoon in Accra. The Chale Wote Street Art Festival is organized by Accra [dot] Alt. You can find a lot more photos on their site, or simply by googling ‘Chale Wote.’

All of these photos were taken on a Nokia Lumia 520, which isn’t spectacular but still manages a decent job.