Since its inception, the Fak’ugesi Festival has injected vibrant energy into Braamfontein in early September every year by curating a program that speaks to the rhythm of the arts and technology industries. This program allows audiences and participating practitioners to show, make, talk and touch on all things industry.
The thematic guide for the Festival each year channels contextualised and varied articulations of Fak’ugesi’s foundation. The theme’s year on year demonstrate how the festival and the creative and tech industry as a whole have evolved simultaneously, feeding off each other for creativity and critical reflection.
The visual signifiers each year, from clenched fists and lightning bolts to cupped hands holding a circuit board heart and an afro queen, pay homage to the spirit of youth and the cultures of technology that continuously develop within different urban and digital contexts. They touch on the importance of the continent in visualising digital futures, as well as touch on the feminine and human energies that electrify communities within our continent.
The annual theme focus began in 2015 with a revolutionary tone – ‘RISE DIGITAL AFRICA’ [2015 video link] mirroring the increased focus on Digital for Africa and the festival’s declaration that Africa is the home of digital creativity, inserting into our imaginaries Johannesburg as the meeting point for the continent’s digital and creative practitioners and professionals. This theme worked to incite a sense of energy and a feeling of action.
Each year we invite designers, illustrators and digital creatives to submit poster proposals for the annual on the festival’s theme.
Watch more on the 2015 Residency, a focus on future cities in Africa
The 2nd year of Fak’ugesi Festival brought the first direct collaboration with the City of Johannesburg ( 2015, 2016 and 2019). Building on an understanding of the connection between urbanity and how the digital is formed and used within city spaces. And situating Johannesburg and Braamfontein as the centre of culture and technology for Africa.
In 2016 the theme ‘AFRO TECH RIOT’ [2016 video link] reflected the student uprising and the regenerative power that technology holds in the hands of digital creatives with hearts and minds in the right place. Here young creative and industry professionals alike recharge their creativity and build their networks with professionals and emerging creatives from across Africa and the globe. They are able to generate new questions and work through potential solutions that make Africa’s unique position visible.
Poster illustrator: In 2016 we drew inspiration from the ‘Fees Must Fall’ riots across the country. Many protesters were seen filming and using their mobile phones and tech to mobilise action during the protests. Feminine hands using mobile devices to inspire the riots became the key visual element used by illustrator Michael Tymbios to bring to life the Afro Tech Riot theme.
Click here to download the 2016 festival report.
The festival does not only see its role as presenting to its audience key debates in the arts and tech spaces; it provides opportunities for audiences to expand their digital imaginaries by looking at our humanness, our vernacular and traditional cultures, how we navigate physical space, and thinking ways to re-imagine what is meant by ‘public’ and to remind ourselves of what can be left out when contemplating the virtual or digital. Being grounded in an African perspective is what allows for the understanding of the threads that need to be pulled together to create and develop from a point of inclusivity, criticality and contextualised future thinking for Africa.
Having established these grounding elements in the first two years, the annual themes turned to growing and supporting a community, highlighting a sense of empowerment and collective self-awareness. ‘BRAVE TECH HEARTS BEAT AS ONE’ [2017 video link] in 2017 took into context global technological engagement and the difficulties experienced globally in 2016. Thematically the slogan referred to ideas around unity and the role of supporting and collaborating with each other through difficult times. The hands in the poster signify supporting and protecting, holding a beating technological heart.
Poster Illustrator: Competition winner Sindiso Nyoni tapped into how the festival inspires and celebrates brave creatives to expose their hearts and create unity. The Illustrator depicted two hands holding the beating creative tech heart of the festival, symbolising the power of community and collective action in the face of adversity. Electric bolt veins and circuitry patterns echo our festival look.
Click here to download the 2017 festival report.
Fak’ugesi has reached an annual audience of 6000 participants, with the majority of them being young innovators, artists and digital practitioners.
The festival has reflected and contributed to the growth of the digital creative sector, having gone from developing and igniting the fire of African digital creativity to a place that supports professional capacity building, skills development and platforms outstanding African technology and creativity.
‘TAP YOUR AFRO SOURCE CODE’ [2018video link] in 2018, like in 2017 brings to the fore an emphasis on making in collaboration and sharing through cross-regional and cross-sector work as a way to think about the growth prospects of digital innovation from within the continent.
> Poster Illustrator: 2018’s competition winner Sonwabo Valashiya, drew inspiration from the popular Marvel Afro-futurist release, Black Panther. Connecting the vision of the film with that of the festival, the poster spotlights Africa as an innovation hub and thought leader.
Watch more on the 2018 Fak’ugesi Digital Africa Residency, artist from SADC, India, Egypt and Switzerland.
Each year a variety of activities feed off the core theme, including workshops, talks, market hacks, exhibitions, installations, hack-a-thons, exhibitions, an arcade hub, conference and more.
By 2019 through ‘OWN YOUR FORCE’ [2019 video link], the festival has become a location for ideas incubation, multi-sector and multi-region creation and policy development for the industry. It is a meeting point for artists and technologists from across the continent to share ideas, critically engage and exchange knowledge.
Poster Illustrator: 2019’s winner Leigh le Roux brought together ideas around feminine power, Afrocentric sensibilities and youthful vibrancy, and combined these with Fak’ugesi Festival’s recognisable tech electric and afro-futurist visual language.
Click here to download the 2019 festival report,
The festival also presents the opportunity to document and generate possible collaborative solutions to what is taking place in digital arts and digital creativity as well as its sub-sectors – gaming, animation and VR, AR, XR, digital and electronic music and installation art concerning technology and culture. In addition to this, the Festival supports and contributes to unpacking and aligning digital creative economies in South Africa and the region. By inviting specific actors across various sectors to engage with one another through discussions and research presentations, as well as through hackathons that bring together unlikely collaborators.
The reports generated from these engagements serve as documents of where experts and emerging practitioners see their industry in the present and in the future, highlighting an imagined trajectory that is useful for holistic visions of African digitality. These also serve as resources for further research, advocacy and policy development.