Vernacular Algorithms Pop Up Project – ISEA2018, Durban

Story Posted: 21 June 2018
Categories: Press

Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival is having some exploratory fun in June this year at two pop-ups. The first is at ISEA2018 in Durban, South Africa.  Fak’ugesi Festival Director, Dr. Tegan Bristow is collaborating with Russel Hlongwane , Lindiwe Matlali and from Mozambique based ANIMA ‘s Joao Roxo and Alexandre Coelho on an exploration of  Vernacular Algorithms.

Project Introduction: At the heart of the debate where digital is assumed as a product of the West, KwaZulu-Natal (ISEA 2018 host) presents an interesting body of works that contribute to the growing evidence that Africa has been an active agent of coded practice for much longer than has been recorded by the West and at times shows a deeply entrenched use of binaries through rich patterns, beadwork and localised subversive language. 

Johannesburg based Fakugesi African Digital Innovation Festival is a rich platform that brings with it, a critical methodology of engaging with this contested area of knowledge production. It is therefore well equipped to stimulate an urgent recalibration of the intersection of ancient practices with contemporary views and outputs from a younger generation of cultural agents in the province. All with the view to texture the conversation of digital, technology, innovation and artistic praxis on the continent and the diaspora.

Parallel to this, Fakugesi Festival has played a critical role in developing and perpetuating the discourse of (African and diasporic) regional and pan African digital cultures to a critical point on the continent. This project proposal is therefore predicated on the desire to provoke, engage and frame Durban and Southern Africa’s East Coast (a position not previously engaged) on digital creative and cultural praxis through a Fak’ugesi framework within the ISEA 2018 platform.

Amidst a flattening global culture where all populations are working towards some kind of homogeneity; ancient practices, venacular and context specificity reveal deep ‘’regionally’’ coded cultures and KwaZulu-Natal has been particularly prolific in this regard. However, there has been little engaged and sustained enquiry from young artists to unearth this depth with the view to reposition it within recent debates in the crossover from traditional to technology cultures in contemporary production. This project begins that dynamic process, albeit only as a starting point.

Program Focus:

Sat. 23  June –  A Vocabulary for Vernacular Algorithms

An intimate exploratory conversation to take place around the beadwork and weaving collection of the Phansi Museum between Phumzile Nkozi (curator), Russel Hlongwane (cultural producer) from Durban, KwaZulu-Natal and Dr Tegan Bristow (Fak’ugesi Festival Director, artist and educator) from Fak’ugesi Festival in Gauteng. The conversation is an attempt to read the coded language embedded in beadwork as a way to generate a vocabulary of coded practices, both traditional and contemporary. 

This exploratory reading will be followed by an exploratory walk through Warwick Triangle across to Queen street, this stretch is populated by a number of communities who share the intimate knowledge of this practice. Collectively, these engagements balance the museum perspective of beadwork and places it alongside the embodied knowledge of this material and practice.

Thurs. 27 June – Panel Discussion: Opening Spaces for Vernacular Knowledges in Digital Cultures

A more formal conversation aimed at an art and design audience. The panel aims to address and engage the requirement to ‘open up’ spaces for vernacular and creative knowledges in technological agenda’s. This goes hand in hand with an exploration on the uniqueness present in urban informality and what the role of subaltern and vernacular knowledge are in holding the health of communities in African urbanism who battle with concerns of environmental justice (as related to a globalised information economy led by capitalism and corporate greed), migration, black-tax, labour, Afro-pessimism, spirituality and assertive African histories.

Location: DUT, City Campus, ISEA Academic Session
Time: 3:15 – 4:15

Sat. 30 June – Coding a Vocabulary for Vernacular Algorithms
This workshop / hack-a-thon that grows out of what was understood from the vocabularies developed in the conversational series. A creative coding gathering aimed at those wanting to engage vernacular forms in their existing programming practices. Basic principles of coding will be explored in line with the beadwork patterns, followed by co-making by any practitioners more comfortable with coding to code a few of the pieces for display Coordinator: Dr. Tegan Bristow and Alexandre Coelho.

Location: Media Room, KZNSA
Time: 10:00 – 14:00

Sat. 30 June – Ifu Elimnyama (Dark Cloud)

This work is a performative recital by Russel Hlongwane, which takes Zulu mythology and folklore and places it within a digital framework. It plays with issues of ritual, cosmology and technology – drawing criticisms and parallels about these various areas of existence.

Location: TBC
Time: TBC

Follow on instagram, facebook and twitter for more on what we will be up to.


More Research…

Join Us – African Digital Creative Community Survey

Fak’ugesi Arcade: Futures and Networking

Blockchain for the Creative Industries

2019 Games Research Round Table

More Stories…

1 July 2020

2020 Festival Poster Illustration Competition: Apply Now

1 July 2020

Fak’ugesi Festival 2020 Online #PowerToThePixel

30 June 2020

Virtual Black Out: Experiments in Future of Form

16 March 2020

Africa2020 x NewImages Festival

11 March 2020

Masidlale Play Fest – 14 March

3 February 2020

Open Call – CairoTronica

22 January 2020

Partner Project – Masidlale Fak’ugesi Arcade Box

16 January 2020

Call for Projects – Digital lab Africa #4

23 October 2019

Winners of the Blockchain for Creative Industries Hackathon 2019!

28 August 2019

Digital makers invited to ‘Own Your Force’ as Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival reaches new heights in 2019

28 August 2019

City of Johannesburg’s Smart City Office Supports Digital Creativity at Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival

18 August 2019

Cultural Economies Digital Innovation Conference at Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival

6 August 2019

Blockchain Hack-a-thon for Creative Industries

2 August 2019


11 July 2019


11 July 2019


9 July 2019

Save the Date – 2019 Program

27 June 2019

Cultural Economies Forum – 4th July 2019

26 June 2019

2019 Poster Illustration Finalists and Winner – Leigh Le Roux!

11 June 2019


14 May 2019

2019 Call for Illustrators Open!

26 February 2019

Source Code Gallery Launching

12 November 2018

Fak’ugesi 2018 and Zimbabwean Residents at ‘Digital Imaginaries: Africas in Production” ZKM, Germany

2 November 2018

We Are Hiring! Business Development Manager / Fundraiser

24 September 2018

Fak’ugesi Beats & Fak’ugesi Arcade – Final Week of Fak’ugesi 2018

20 August 2018

Tap Your Afro Source Code’ – The Fak’ugesi 2018 Illustration

20 August 2018

Unpack the source code of your African Identity at the 2018 Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival

13 August 2018

Call for Participation: “Digital Spirit” AR Workshop

8 August 2018

Fak’ugesi Residency 2018

25 July 2018

Digital Imaginaries: Premonition @ WAM & Fak’ugesi

21 June 2018

Call for Artists! – Fak’ugesi Digital Africa Residency

21 June 2018

Fak’ugesi Play Rooms Pop Up Project – Creativate, NAF

24 August 2017

Digital Africa Exhibition and Beats Bloc Party among exceptional highlights of 2017 Fak’ugesi Festival

2 August 2017

Welcome to the 2017 Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival 

28 April 2017

Fak’ugesi Residence Project Presented at Museums and the Web, USA

13 April 2017

Award Winning Performance

4 April 2017

Read our 2016 Report

18 January 2017

Dates Announced for Fak’ugesi 2017

3 October 2016

Fak’ugesi African Innovation Festival Lights up Johannesburg

10 August 2016

Meet the New Female Voices of Digital Art at Fak’ugesi 2016

6 June 2016

What will happen at Fak’ugesi 2016 

24 May 2016

Poem Call To Action

24 May 2016

Festival Residency Call

10 September 2015

Opening of the Fak’ugesi Lab Exhibition

2 September 2015

Fak’ugesi Lab First Thursday at WAM

21 August 2015

Market Hack: making & hacking for everyone!

19 August 2015

Treasure Hunting for a Smart City with Ling Tan

19 August 2015

Residency Events, how do YOU see the future of Joburg?

16 August 2015

“Reverse” Digital Hustle – 27th Aug

15 August 2015

A MAZE/JHB – new 2015 CI

15 August 2015

BodyTech – first announcement

14 August 2015

Media Release: BodyTech 2015

31 July 2015

A MAZE to return to Fak’ugesi with more games and plenty to play with!

The 2015 Fak'ugesi Residency crew

30 July 2015

Meet the Fak’ugesi Residents

25 July 2015

Market Hack will be in The Grove Courtyard

24 July 2015

The countdown begins – in just 30 days . . .

24 July 2015

Facebook’s Kent Beck at Agile Africa 2015

23 July 2015

Launch of the Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival 2015

About Fak'ugesi Festival

Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival is at the forefront of Africa’s culture and technology scene. Explore what we stand for and how our journey evolves.



Fak’ugesi Festival takes place annually in Johannesburg, South Africa. Plus year long pop up programming at regional & international Festivals, and the Tshimologong Innovation Precinct. Digital Cultural Economies, Digital Art, Critical Engagement, VR / AR, Gaming, Animation and Sound.



Workshops, Hackathons, Game Jams



Conference, Talks, Events



Research, Residencies, Community



AR/VR Exhibitions, Games Arcade, Animation Screenings, Digital Art Exhibitions


Festival Residencies & Partner Linked Creative Programs.