It’s an innovative festival that opened its doors on Wednesday 9 June in the heart of Paris: until Sunday 13 June, creators from all over the world will be present in virtual reality or augmented reality. And this year, in collaboration with the “Africa 2020” season for the Institut français, the Forum des images honors African creators.
Whether you’re putting on a virtual reality headset to be in Dakar, using an app on your smartphone to see a portrait of an ancestor come to life, or discovering the story of Pharaoh’s black people from Sudan projected Canopy of Les Halles, various African creations in honor NewImages Festival use the full potential of new technology to stage traditional stories or rituals.
The Forum des images has even co-produced spectacular works, such as video mapping, projection of images on the façade of the Church of Saint-Eustache which will take place on Friday and Saturday. A collective of South African artists reinterprets the traditional Chosi Chosi story with 2D and 3D animation.
In the eyes of the festival’s director, it’s not surprising that the African continent is one of the most promising in terms of creations using this new means of expression that uses the tools of film, video games and performing arts.
“We see that there is a relationship with the world that is different from the Western world,” analyzes Michael Swierczynski. It is a world populated by ancestors, mythologies, powerful rituals. You have works of choice, out of competition like Atomu, where you can choose to be male or female and you can perceive spirits. One has the impression that by augmenting reality you are in African mythologies. Africa has the most stories to tell in an immersive reality: it connects the past and the present, science fiction and technology and mythology and tradition. “
Virtual reality in the service of traditional stories
The 34-year-old Senegalese stylist and plastic artist Selly Raby Kane, jury member, agrees. She discovered these new technologies in 2015. The young woman, who disrupted the codes and trends of Senegalese fashion, was chosen by the South African company Electric south: “The goal was to ensure that there are maximum hours of virtual reality coming from the continent. There was a militant aspect to the continent producing these works at the same time as the rest of the world when VR (virtual reality) narrative exploded. I joined a group of other advertising materials from the continent. And we spent ten days training in this new medium, working with software, scanning our bodies, putting ourselves in virtual environments. ”
Two years later, Selly Raby Kane directed an eight-minute film, The Other Dakar: she takes the viewer into a psychedelic world and the streets of the Senegalese capital, guided by a little girl for a virtual 360 ° walk.
“What is interesting for us who come from Senegal, Kenya, Nigeria or South Africa is that art is also considered a place for archives and transfer. By using virtual reality to talk about mythology or to tell stories, it is a way for us to turn to the young people on the continent, to prepare those who arrive, and it is a way of doing things that is rooted in our cultures. “
Transmission between generations
Using the most modern technology to promote intergenerational transmission is also the basis for the augmented reality exhibition “Re / Member Your Descendants” by South African artists Xabiso Vili and Sonwabo Valashiya.
The poet and slammer Xabiso Vili conducted a series of interviews with compatriots. Sonwaho Valashiya then painted very colorful portraits that come to life when scanned with their smartphone.
Xabiso Vili takes advantage of the opportunities that this medium offers to talk about spirituality: “Augmented reality is exciting. It makes it possible for those who speak, but also the spectators, to think about their spirituality and how they would like to be perceived in the future, how their descendants could see them and understand them. It almost creates a new mythology, xhosa stories for new generations. I believe that these stories have the power to heal communities. ”
His friend, the painter Sonwabo Valashiya adds: “We have a feeling that we are preserving our culture, our way of life. We want our descendants to remember their identity, to know where they come from. ”
Whether virtual, amplified or immersive, the African realities seen at the Forum des images intelligently combine past, present and future.