A conversation about digital engagement in Africa

Track:Middle East/Africa


Museum Computer Network 13:15
Welcome everyone. And this is our second African session with a focus in Africa, and for this particular session. I'm very grateful to go in his hometown, who is. Some of you may know, Colleen from her. Communicating the arts conferences that she's done all over the world. And, and Karina and I are just really good friends and so I asked her during the lead up to the conference if she might help me secure speakers that I didn't know, and she of course did. And so this session is with two museum what the cultural cultural professionals from Africa were very specific perspective on things and we thought it would be really valuable to have them join us and, you know, and hear from them. The challenges around digital and the opportunities that they use in their respective work. So, thank you Kohane for bringing us, audio, and gift, and for making it happen, and I will take it, you know, I will hand it over to you.

Unknown Speaker 14:35
When thank you for giving me this opportunity. And yes, I want to say, Hi Mitch gift and an Odile so I was really happy when gift accepted our invitation to come to the conference in Sydney, two years ago now and did a brilliant speech and give guns eyes the artistic director of circus Zambia in in Zambia and Olivier, join us, you know, in a panel recently for the conference in Luzon, it was international panel about reopening strategies, after the COVID so bas were really inspired and. And that's why I invited the bush of you to join MCA, a conference. So, can you briefly make an introduction about your foundation and as director of nubikk a foundation. What is the purpose of the foundation and what is the activity.

Unknown Speaker 15:38
Thank you. Thanks for giving me this opportunity. As Corinne has said my name is ODU Kelly and I'm the director and one of the cofounders of Lucca Foundation, which is based in Accra, and also we have a station in the Upper West Region of Ghana. We work primarily with digital artists really to put in programs and exhibitions to support their work, give them the opportunity to showcase in our gallery, also with some of our partners all over the world, we Booker is a member of the art collaborative network, so that gives us the ability to showcase artists worldwide and also enable us to have exchange programs offering them professional support from the wider network. Working with visual artist, working with other creative people poets drama production as space is based in Accra. We have been fortunate to have fortunate to have space in Accra, we can showcase works of artists and other creative people, the work that we're doing in the Upper West is using art to bring some economic empowerment to weavers, so it's mostly a lot of design work with leaders to help them to expand the work that they do reach different markets and really give opportunity to women mostly women and young woman. So that's that's in a nutshell.

Unknown Speaker 17:13
Right. What about you gift, can you explain the history of Zambia and what has been your involvement there.

Unknown Speaker 17:23
Yeah, so my name is gift chance. Again, I'm the co founder and artistic director of SIG Assembleia, which is a social enterprise, working with young people, artists performing artists also promoting arts and culture in Zambia through our creative hub. And then, then also going into the social aspect of engaging young people through the body, mind and so, so, yeah, we use the artistic approach. We are artists the group of artists, and we work collective, to just, like, you know, do whatever inspires us, and because of the Creative Hub. Now we were doing a lot of things. We just had like a warehouse party. We're working on a production now for Christmas for Christmas that is coming which is yet, the theater show, so it's just like creating things and that's what we're doing.

Unknown Speaker 18:29
Right. And I would be interested to to understand what is the situation with the digital space and have you seen a digital transformation. After COVID How did I mean for both of you. What was the situation before and after, have you seen a change in in the expertise in the involvement. So, what is your situation of the digital in in your country or jail Can you start,

Unknown Speaker 19:00
we would focus mostly on what was happening in the space, the physical space before COVID But then we realized that we had to quickly look at how we could also co curate something parallel to what was happening in the physical space online. So that has what has happened, really, since about July last year, anything that we're sort of showcasing the gallery had to have a commensurate footprint online so we were using a third party provider to give us a view in rooms, and other third party providers give us opportunity to stream, any talks that we're having live. Yeah, so that that is what is happening and I find that, you know, the amount of effort that has been put into the physical production is similar, if not more effort is put into the digital production because we're looking at, what is this going to be what is experienced with B. What do you want people to take from it, how is it going to look like. So we need to think about all those things. In addition to work you're doing in the physical space so really they're doing double, double, work

Unknown Speaker 20:31
double. So when you think about third parties, provider, are you talking about partners that you are involving like sponsors, What what are the relationship was is

Unknown Speaker 20:43
that they're not sponsors, they're just providers of platforms that we can use to quickly showcase what has happened together like the Virtual Viewing rooms and online viewing rooms and stuff like that they, you know, sort of shifted part of our exhibitions onto that platform to enable people to have a different experience some of them are sort of 3d viewing rooms so people can physically walk through and be immersed in an immersive experience as well.

Unknown Speaker 21:18
gift do you feel that you had to change the expertise of your, of your staff members, and like Odile, did you have to, to adapt to the situation, how did you deal with the digital transformation in Zambia.

Unknown Speaker 21:34
Yeah, I mean in Zambia, I think, also, I would put it in general for Zambia, and it will be really hard to adapt and also we felt because there was a lockdown and also at that moment, I think in much at the beginning of 2020, you know like we were just hearing it's happening in Europe and we're thinking like we have fallen away from COVID leaching, you know, Africa and Zambia in particular. And so when it came we were like okay this is an opportunity to just like go somewhere and start creating and so we went, we did like a look down come thinking okay in three months. This will be done, and the world would come back to the to life. Then, and you know like, we stayed in the camp for, actually three months was just creating and putting stuff online, like we do a performance we put online we do. Also we I think along the way we also had an exhibition that changed the way our approach, and also the challenges is that, you know, in the beginning we're just putting things online, but nobody was paying for it and then we're like, Okay, we just performing and nobody is paying because we couldn't find a platform where, you know where we felt like okay, it could be awake. We did like some Zoom performances where we like scheduled and said we are performing in Zoom and this is the link, people have to pay in come, you know, using event blinds to say, book, and come into a Zoom and see the show, but then when changes of the internet because it was, it wasn't just sustainable it's like you see somebody and then it's like blackout you can like see everything. And so we feel like okay, from that, maybe we should change to like having few audience in Zoom like initially we said we want 50 But then we said staying we want 10 people to come in the in the Zoom, and that was intimate but then again, It's like a lot of shows that you need to do and, and you will budget it generating small amounts of money as well, because we, we hit studies like oh people don't want to keep going online because also people just want to like detach themselves because everybody was going on. And I think in general that's what was happening as well in in genetic in Zambia, like we saw artists, just, you know like we see the Oh album on Facebook. And then people started like just fizzing out because I think sustainability for me. And we're using. When we did with an opportunity to host an artist who was actually very brave. And so we did like a curation and, and this time around the thing with understood our COVID was working, I think it was end of 2020. And so with that we, we did, Tara. More like we did the clients and we are actually busy, always on laptop saying, Oh, if you want to come in, you need to come in, this time because there's no one so people were coming in into Second Samuel but, you know, two or three people and then like that they could like walk around because also, Zambia, allowed that you know like you have to be together. This is an 50 or less than 10 people. And then from that we were able to like, you know, bring in people to see.

Unknown Speaker 25:11
I understand that you and odd you have, you're working very closely with your communities, local communities. So I mean, digital in the global sphere is an opportunity to reach an audience. So is it something part of your strategy I mean, is this important for you to, to reach out this audience but you don't care, or you just think that, you know, keep it simple and keep it local.

Unknown Speaker 25:42
I think the process we do. It's wonderful that whatever we're doing the same effort we can reach, you know, an audience beyond our borders. And just by the virtue of the fact that we are online and we know, because of the pandemic people are looking for new experiences, who's out there who's doing war. And for me it's wonderful that we could take advantage of this to reach audiences that we ordinarily would not reach I mean, in the case of us in West Africa. And at the end of 2019, the President launched an initiative to reach out to the diaspora and Americans. And so, opening up this world to the diaspora, excuse me, of West Africa. I felt that because of COVID that sort of curtail that but the conversation could continue on the internet. So reaching people who were coming to the continent for the first time, and experiencing, you know the continent, the first time in Ghana. But, you know, as I said already, the expertise that we have already is more focused towards the physical, and so much as we are aware of what is out there, you know, viewing rooms digital platforms Zoom and stuff like that, we really had to step back and deliberately think about what do we do because I felt I feel that the internet is quite unforgiving, everything has to be picture perfect. You need to approach it very carefully, you can't just be blunt about what you put out there and so that actually requires a bit more of an effort, and every everybody's past, actually, to make sure that by the time they're going live and whatever production details or exhibition, whatever, everything has been tied up and I think that has taken a lot of strain on the part of the staff, the digital knowledge technology knowledge is not here, we are aware of what is their best to just simply think about, you know, this is what we have to do this happy to program it. And this is the experiences we are going to get. We're kind of winging it, and reading as we go along and in trying to figure out what's the best thing to do. So I guess we're getting to a point where, if this is definitely long term in the way we're gonna be working this sort of hybrid situation then we need to go look for the expertise, and then sort of put together the strategy that will help us to be able to sort of put a good production, and Exhibition Program, or programming content in the space, as well as how to fashion something out. Also for this we're going to be joining or sort of looking for those experiences in life.

Unknown Speaker 28:56
I understand what you say about the expertise so do you feel that's observe people working in the digital sphere in in your country. I mean, are more valued Now the job is, is better considered, and then before we because I mean digital before was just you know, a side of the organization but now we feel like they're under new curators, so how do you feel about that.

Unknown Speaker 29:24
Arrival so who to call that but I mean, I know that those who are the photographers for example, that we have to call in to take the photographs are hot, you know, you have to book them well in advance to be able to get them to come in to see what is the exhibition, what really what what is the scope of work that he's doing, and they also, they also have to do a lot of work to get these words back to you. So, I mean, really have to make sure that we are booking them in advance to make sure that we're able to get them to come in to take, you know installation shots and stuff like that. So, I'm not sure who else is maybe curating in that space that a few names that I've seen already, but it's not really taken off. To that extent as yet. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 30:13
but what about you gift. I mean, do you are you looking for also profile, different profile are you trainings, existing staff to to do a, you know, more digital.

Unknown Speaker 30:28
Yeah, no, I think we are doing both. We are looking for expertise from outside, because we don't have the means and the, the knowledge on how to use the digital thing, actually we've launched the project where we visit now internally, where we're trying to understand what tools do we need to use an why do we want to use those two so we, we are. Yeah, we're we're working on this project is, yeah, it's just on digital Indian and so we're like trying to build, like you know like how we can few more performances, so that they make sense for digital tools, and, and that just that infrastructure. But yes, also to go back to your question, you know like, As an organization that works with young people also with the community during the pandemic was really a time I feel like we're actually connected, and we've everywhere also like you know people wanted us to participate in like workshops, conferences, but also it was easy because we had to be, it is digital, we don't we are not supposed to travel. And so I felt like we did a lot of international things actually during COVID, and then I was selfishly saying, oh, actually. It's nice like this because then we stay connected. But, you know like, also it's like how do we keep whatever is happening now, even post COVID Because it felt nice to feel like we were connected and people were actually reaching out to us to do things to collaborate online.

Unknown Speaker 32:21
Do you, do you feel mad because you very clearly explained in your introduction that you, you are a social enterprise. So as a social enterprise. Do you feel you have a role to play in your country like a you know a driver of the hours for creativity of the other enterprises and for people around you, and about education. So how do you feel the role of your, of your enterprise now, in, in your country.

Unknown Speaker 32:53
Yeah, no, that's actually interesting because we've actually we are in the middle of this project that we're doing with you, because in Zambia, we don't have the infrastructure, the education also the physical infrastructure and the actual education. You know on like on arts and culture. And so we've been like really pushing hard with international cooperation inviting people to work with our artists in, and in Zambia, and we are actually doing this project where we are actually doing the basics, and like helping people. You know even post and before COVID To understand what we really need, but also the actual basics of like, okay, you know, like most of the artists in Zambia depend much on, on, on, on the clients to book them and then they get the gig and then they go, Well, an artist too, they don't create themselves too, and then to go and sell outside. So what we're doing is just like, you know, helping artists to understand the process of like okay, this is how you budget, this is how you market your production, this is what you need to be able to exhale, and also because we have the connection and, you know, we understand how to fundraise and how to bring those things so we feel like we are capable of doing that. Okay.

Museum Computer Network 34:25
Yeah. Can I add something to this because this is an interesting point, I think. And I see a few familiar faces among attendees and odia your the conundrum that you talked about moments ago about, you know like, the, the, the dichotomy between like whether we want to reach people in our local communities, or do we want to go global, it, I can tell you that it is a conversation that American museums ask themselves right, Sarah, I'm looking at you because I know that you know. And so, so just don't feel bad, you're alone in that analysis and, and I think MANY, MANY museums still haven't really figured out the social media strategy this, there's, there's a social media for you know for brand awareness, right, and then there's the real social media for engagement. And those two serve different purposes and and sometimes not in the best and best way but it's, it's very much a conversation that affects, you know, cultural institutions, definitely in the US and in Europe as well. So you're not alone in that particular situation, just want to add that,

Unknown Speaker 35:52
you know, I know we had this conversation before about that you raise observed issue about black life matters and you say that it really changed the way you were doing the polygon. So, further to that movement in, in which started in the US. Do you feel that for you in your organization. How did you, I mean make contact or how did what was the conversation you had about that in your country.

Unknown Speaker 36:27
I mean not particularly about the movement. It was just the, the way the Black Lives Matter started and everybody was looking out for institutions that were founded by blacks, which were extending worldwide who needed to be looked at and sort of lauded for what they're doing for for blacks worldwide that, that is how come we got, you know, pulled into the conversation of Black Lives mattering. This institution is based in Ghana. Three Kenyan individuals having the vision to to found the lots of innovation at the time when really the only people who were doing anything we asked were foreign missions, to be honest so being bold enough to, to, to, to see how important our voices were in the house, and pushing programming, and, you know, encouraging the artists, putting a range of programs in place to, to bring up the the practice of of Ghanian artists, and, you know, today, quite a number of the artists who are, you know, known worldwide have been through a program, or other in the book of foundation so that to me is. That's how can we got drawn into why black men's lives matters because of us sort of taking charge and thinking of how important it was for our voices to be heard within the US in Ghana at the time and, you know, now that's that's that is a lot of people taking based on that foundation, they're sort of stepping on the foundation that we set up and going out into the world and doing all this wonderful stuff.

Unknown Speaker 38:23
Shouldn't you are you are you part of international conversation on a global you know, global conversation on different platform with, I mean, do you raise your voice on the, on zoo, different platform,

Unknown Speaker 38:40
the, the, the, has been a foray by a lot of sub Muslim institutions actually basically US led by female directors, we formed a network, and we are in the, you know, you know how much time it takes to form a network so we and the lessons of forming a network, to see how we can sort of share ideas to exchanges, you know, leverage of expertise. So we've done a number of surveys to see what the different things that we were facing, what we want to do, how we want the network to work for us. So that is that is ongoing. Yeah, but what about

Unknown Speaker 39:25
you gift. Do you have a similar experience. In, in Zambia,

Unknown Speaker 39:31
and particularly on Black Lives Matter,

Unknown Speaker 39:34
So I mean and then joining the global conversation.

Unknown Speaker 39:39
Yeah, I mean we are a diverse organization as well. And I think my take, in the Black Lives Matter movement is actually trying to help the African voice African production, and try to push them to also represent the motherland of the continent. Because also, from that angle. I feel, you know, not MANY African artists included especially in the performing performing artists that even like doing well, are known worldwide so for us it's been like trying to, I mean we understand the message, and it's easy because we are Oh like you know black people based in Africa, and, and our vision is to try and put a voice from the continent as well with, with our own stories and so people can hear about them.

Unknown Speaker 40:52
Excellent. We have two more minutes before opening the floor to the question to the floor. So I just wanted to a conclusion from Bush view you know I love key learnings. So, if I can, you know, a key learning from from these experiences that you, as you are both leaders of your organization. So the vision that you have for the digital space for the future.

Unknown Speaker 41:24
Well, certainly I am in fact just before COVID I was having a conversation with the digital agency, about how we could bring sort of immersive digital exhibitions into our space sort of a 4d effect exhibition, and so I'm still looking for that opportunity to partner with, you know these sort of organizations, we'd love partnerships, I think it brings in a whole rich experience to our visitors. So, I'm looking to see how we can build on the sort of relationship to bring in virtual reality with digital artists and things like that so it's a big opportunity and I'm looking forward to have it's all gonna cut out everything.

Unknown Speaker 42:21
We understand your, your message. Ideally, so

Museum Computer Network 42:25
ideally in joining MTN, you're in the right place because we that's what we do with a bunch of digital practitioners like thinking about those things and we're very generous with, with our resources so we hope that you, you would tap into, you keep the conversation going with us. If thanks.

Unknown Speaker 42:50
If you feel like the power of, of of partnership is is important and what is your view on the future.

Unknown Speaker 43:00
I think I think God ablation is the only way, going forward, because you can't do everything alone. I mean we are good at what we do but we're not good with digital staffs and we will not Knight, I know. And so we were looking also for experts that would help us, like, be able to, to find a digital platform that is suitable and that is able to deliver them, our work and that would be really amazing.

Museum Computer Network 43:31
And then right away the other gift. Earlier you alluded to the fact that, obviously, circus shows are paid events, right. Yeah, so, and and you alluded to the fact that he dried up, obviously, during a pandemic and it's also something that museums have been contending with at least for the most part of 2020 with their doors being closed, and the rush toward digital, and that we experience our community because we that's what that's what members of mtN do they work in museums and in digital. And, you know, all of a sudden it was like, Yeah, put everything online and we need to have a spiritual experiences and, And, but we haven't figured out how to monetize this and we don't we're not even sure if it can be monetized but you know so so the conversations, you're the preoccupations you're having are part of our conversations as well so it's not, it's not unique to, to where you're at, or,

Unknown Speaker 44:42
you know, no yeah, please include us because I think, yeah, it's really, yeah we need to be part of the global movement.

Museum Computer Network 44:49
Yes. Questions yeah well I wanted to ask, I'm not sure how MANY people in the audience, but I know Koven was there and he left. But I'm wondering if there any questions for our guests. Oh do you do you have a question for gift or gift a question, sir. Yes, you could do that.

Unknown Speaker 45:25
Bushing to perform and cheese. Yes, so, I mean, you've been running these, These social enterprises for MANY years now.

Unknown Speaker 45:38
In Zambia. We've been doing it for the past six years now.

Unknown Speaker 45:42
Yes. And did you feel that other enterprises have awakened or after you arrive and what has changed into the global sphere of Lusaka, since you've been there six years ago.

Unknown Speaker 46:00
I mean there is a lot of social enterprise, in the sense that, you know, like also does the approach because people. They're not profitable enough so they need to source out other monies to be able to be sustainable. And so from that angle I see but different models as well like people coming up with, you know, like, maybe do, they're gonna focus on climate change, or climate justice for instance and then they from that angle then the developing a business model, but also, which is a social enterprise model. And, you know from the artistic point of view as well. Yeah, that's what we're doing like getting the infrastructure and engaging young people in whatever we're doing.

Unknown Speaker 46:54
Yes, exactly. I think we have a question from PSA. I would love to. I would love to know what audit and gift sync as greatest challenges, digital, otherwise, what are your greatest challenges. Thank you sir for asking the question, or deal. Yeah, so challenging in running your foundation.

Unknown Speaker 47:21
I mean I present. I point out to the fact that I don't have the, the skill set within the organization that can really help us with this. This hybrid operation. And I suspect it's that is going to be how we'll be working from here on in. And so, I'm not even sure whether there are people out there who are training to work within DX, who have this technical skills, you find out about people who are doing apps development and things like that. So it's, I guess we in the as always, further behind the chain where people don't really consider working the US to be lucrative enough so we are lagging behind all the time. And that so it's about being comfortable with someone coming on board who understands really what we need to do to serve audiences, especially platform, you know, that that is where we're at. In the meantime, we just need to you know do the best that we can, but I'm sure also probably because they're looking within, I'm not sure whether because of the virtual or technical space we can find people outside of Ghana, so that is also an option I guess we could probably start exploring and see how we can get people on board in our team without them physically being here. Right. Gift What

Unknown Speaker 49:06
is your biggest challenges in running your shack is

Unknown Speaker 49:10
a bit similar like, Oh gee, actually, and also just to add on, like, you know, we haven't found a platform that, as, as the same experience as physical engagement with the audience. Always is always liking, you're trying to reach out online but you don't feel the same energy. And I think that is challenging for a performing artist, that is also looking for energy back. And also, the expertise we don't have the expertise, we actually we haven't found this platform, that actually is the platform that we actually need to be able to do what we want, and mostly we've tried and mostly, it feels like you're making a movie, online, and, and if you're like okay we like it doesn't, it doesn't feel like what we want to do and so these are some of the challenges I would say.

Unknown Speaker 50:19
Very good. I'll say, any other question.

Museum Computer Network 50:24
Yeah, any other question and what I'm doing a recap, but I don't know, I know I'm doing every camp, but bear with me for a second while we check your listing here, yes I am doing a recap, what did we learn, I think, oh at 115. I wouldn't 15 So, you can join that. But other than that if you don't have any more questions, we can, we can

Unknown Speaker 50:53
always happy to talk. You know, I'll just jump in. We'll do and gift it's really nice to meet you and thank you for being here I, my name is Sarah and I work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and I put this in the chat. Kind of after Eric's prompt, you know, we, my team is focused on developing interpretive content and digital products that assume you will never visit the Met, which is a really exciting way to be working and be organized and, and one of the, I think remits that our team has is to position ourselves as a global institution. I think that's a real challenge, when we're sewn kind of New York based in New York focused and yes we have a vast collection, but that doesn't inherently make it relevant to communities all over the world and so I guess I'm just really excited to be having this conversation with you because I think, I think probably partnerships with organizations who are doing very good local work is a way for the Met, to, to actually have some relevance locally in MANY different places. So that's, that's kind of why my line of questioning, and my interest in the conversation is just, you know, what do we do well or what can we offer on our side and how, how can that be kind of mutually beneficial in MANY different places. In order to kind of accomplish what we're, what we're aiming to do. So not a question just an invitation for more conversations. Also Jill I'm just, I you know I, you said your organization focuses on supporting female weavers and I was just instantly interested and I went to your website and I'm looking all around for it so like I just have a personal affinity and interest in, in that work as well.

Unknown Speaker 53:09
Great. Thank you,

Unknown Speaker 53:14
when maybe you can make the introduction to Sahaba from Bush,

Museum Computer Network 53:21
a gift. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 53:23
very much for being so generous in sharing your, you know, your resources so that's that's

Museum Computer Network 53:30
yeah in fact I was just typing in, there's a resource that's free. That's called the MC N forum, it's a it's an online discussion forum for people who work in technology and museums, join, it's free. There are no, no questions or stupid, just whatever questions you ask, and trust me, our community is very helpful, is that right sir, I mean people really, really respond and to, to tips questions or whatever. So, I will, I will share that with you so that you can, you know you have if you have a question that you don't know the answer to you can ask it on the forum, and I'm pretty sure somebody, or more will get back to you.

Unknown Speaker 54:16
Excellent, Well thank you so much for sharing your vision, I mean we really want to engage, you know, Africa more into these debates with cultural leaders we feel it's essential that you are part of the, of the conversation. And so I thank you, really for for joining your MC N network and Eric's conference which is really great and aiming to, you know, to have a global conversation all over the world so congratulation Eric you're doing an amazing job.

Museum Computer Network 54:48
Right here, perfectly and for the connections, and thank you gift and a deal it was a pleasure to have you join us today. Thank you for having us. Thank you for having us. Okay, thank you.