Making the State of What is an Afro-Tech Home?

By: Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja and Oupa Sibeko
A paper performed at Conversations exhibition at the National Art Gallery of Namibia and published at the International Conference on Culture and Computer Science, 2016.

Photograph by Vilho Nuumbala.

This work is an embodiment and making of a Fundi who is described in the poetic text as a citizen and foreigner; human and automaton; leader and follower, mover and settler. The Fundi is an Afropolitan, an Afro-Techist, and an Afropatriarch tracing and mapping his matriniality, imagining an Afromatriarch.

Movement, Home, Border Crossings & Afro-Techism.

This is a site-related body of work that explores the complex process of the post-colonial African identity formation, its relation to technology and the future. The performing bodies move between tangible and intangible technologies that make up a middle ground to play from. It is the embodiment of playing that creates technological beings who live to communicate, share, express and co-create. The playing would like to take into account the memory, living archive, heritage and culture of the technological beings. Knowledge making bodies in play fields such as computing, design and performance have been gendered over the years of patriarchal dominance. This has produced binary robotic roles that have failed to consider those in the liminal and beyond.
We look at movement as embodiment, migration and transformation. We are curious about our origins and where we are moving towards. Locating ourselves within our masculine privilege, our identity formations as two young black men has been influenced by how we choose to perform our individual masculinity. This includes the kind of shifts we explore in order to discover new avenues for the Afro-Tech Home.

What is an Afro-tech Home?
There is a process of making which is the embodiment of imagined places and times. Making becomes our way of finding working answers to this question and those that will follow. Making the performance. Making the healing. Making the change. Making applications. Making our maps. Making our journeys. Making technologies. Making our circles. Making crossbreed identities. Potential sites for the making will be our experiences of rural, urban and virtual spaces as contesting sites of the contemporary African home, belonging, nationhood and citizenship.
We are what we perform. Writer Taiye Selasi writes, “Ultimately, the Afropolitan must form an identity along at least three dimensions: national, racial, cultural – with subtle tensions in between” (Selasi, 2004). The making process will identify and unpack some of these tensions.
What does the body remember?
Where are the technological archives located and how accessible are they?
How fluid and queer is the history of the moving machine?
How does the body negotiate ancient and modern technologies to generate its new African identity?

The aesthetic vocabulary and subject matter material are sourced from the bodies in performance and the found objects as fundamental devises of the process. The work synthesizes ritualized movement, spoken and visual text, sound, found objects, prints, photography as well as digital artwork. The actual installation is a spherical Kraal-like set up made of wire, wood, cloth and objects recycled from old computers.
The performers in and out of the Kraal embody the familiar places that are visited by the Fundi. Places such as the Kraal of the Origins, the Trance Namib Freedom Station, Home Affairs on Indepen(dance) Avenue and the Border. The live music composed of vocals and guitars speaks of movement and the African experience.
The witnesses surrounding the Kraal can move in and around this installation engaging with the soundscape, objects and the moving bodies. In addition to this movement of the observer-participants, they are also handed some objects like imaginary passports and identity documents when they enter the space.

They are invited to play with the performers to construct the imagined home by moving objects and making additions to visual texts. They do this by responding to the questions.
What is the Afro-Tech Home made of?
What kind of human values does Afro-Techism produce?
What rooms are found in this home?
Who owns the Afro-tech Home?
Who are the people in this home, what are their roles and where do they come from?
Who are the citizens and who are the foreigners?
Why are they here?
When does it change?
How does the Afro-Tech Home move?
The witnesses are free to choose how they want to start and how they want to end their engagement.

The making wants to confront the split between the physical and the virtual worlds. The irony of how computerization simultaneously connects and disconnects humanity; and how this contradicts the spirit of Ubuntu. Knowing that Africa has always been technological, the work will look at how we can find in-between and other spaces where bodies and computers can meet to create viable futures for the Afro-tech Home.
How do we imagine and embody border crossing in and out of the Afro-Tech Home?

[1] Kabwe, M. 2013. Performance of Afrocartography: Traces of Places and all points in between. Wits Theatre.
[2] Mushaandja, N. 2016. The State of Performance text. Project Space Oudano wa Afrika and National Art Gallery of Namibia.
[3] Sakaria, J. 2014. The performer as shaman: an auto ethnographic performance as research project. In MA research, unpublished. University of Witwatersrand.
[4] Silasi, T. 2005. Bye-Bye Babar. An online article in The LIP Magazine.


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