The Curious Curator…. Vol #17


How Africa is out-innovating Silicon Valley


When things turned ugly after Kenya’s 2007 elections, an unlikely group of heroes — young African coders — developed a platform that used cellphones and the Internet to track the violence. Ushahidi, as it was called, would go on to transform not only government accountability in Nairobi but, more broadly, digital mapping around the world.

The African techies were at the forefront of a revolution clicking into place from Lagos to Nairobi — and everywhere in between. Today, Africa’s “Silicon Savanna” has produced innovations as varied as Wi-Fi on public transportation in Kenya to mobile midwifery services in Ghana.

These tech pioneers are quickly eclipsing many of the advances coming out of their American namesake. Key to their success is the recognition that while most Africans don’t own computers, the vast majority do have access to a cellphone. The continent has some 650 million mobile phone users — more than the United States or Europe — who account for a direct economic impact of $32 billion.

With seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies now located in Africa, the importance of mobile technology cannot be overstated. Indeed, this focus on mobile isn’t just changing Africa, it’s changing the world. Ushahidi has been used to find survivors of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, to track the impact of the BP oil spill, and for outlets like The Huffington Post and Al Jazeera to gather news otherwise unreported. What also sets African innovation apart is a core understanding that technology must work for residents in both bustling modern cities, such as Cairo or Cape Town, and the rural areas that are still home to half the world’s population.


The shipping containers tackling South Africa’s chronic childcare shortages

Access to affordable childcare is a worldwide problem, particularly so in South Africa where just 16% of all children from birth to age four receives care from a government-regulated programme, according to UnicefMatchbox Africa is striving to reverse this shortfall. The Cape Town-based organisation installs repurposed shipping containers in township communities to provide permanent spaces for existing community-run creches. By providing a formalised, resourced, and safe space, Matchbox is strengthening the physical environment, which in turn bolsters the care that’s already being provided. In addition, they partner with other local support services to train caretakers in skills such as financial planning, English language, nutrition, education and how to register their business properly. While Matchbox is a nonprofit, the work they do alongside their partner organisations are enabling a myriad of sustainable small businesses and expressions of entrepreneurship. Carers can rent the spaces out for after-hours functions such as weddings or funerals; they can run small bakeries using the oven; they can hire and train women to make school uniforms using sewing machines bought using cash surpluses; and they can provide a well-lit space for older children to do their homework. Project Manager Verena Grips says that by partnering with local people and working out what will work in the long-term before installation, the centres take on an elevated meaning and begin to serve as a permanent community hub.


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A New Exhibition In London Is Tracing African Rhythms In Art

RhythmAll Of Us Have A Sense of Rhythm is a new group exhibition in London that explores the adoption of African rhythms in contemporary art forms throughout the twenty-first century. The show, which is based on the research of French-Cameroonian curator Christine Eyene, engages with Africa’s rhythmic heritage through music, poetry, dance, sculpture, installation, photography, and film.

All Of Us Have A Sense of Rhythm runs through August 1st at the David Roberts Art Foundation in London.



Zimbabwean Experimental Hip-Hop Group The Monkey Nuts Premiere ‘Ndiani Aparadza’

MonkeyHailing from Harare, Zimbabwe, The Monkey Nuts blend conscious hip-hop lyrics, soulful afro-electro beats, blaring guitar riffs, funky jazz and down-tempo trance music in their latest album Boombap Idiophonics. The group is responsible for bringing a new sound to the streets of Harare and recently gained worldwide attention when signing with UK’s BBE Records.

The out-of-bounds hip-hop collective is premiering an experimental outer space track; “Ndiani Aparadza”, a trippy bonus track about the effects of sudden fame off their latest LP.  “Ndiani Aparadza” begins with a gentle mbira and ends with a mash-up of the uncomfortable sound of records skipping repeatedly. It’s unpredictable, unapologetic and everything you could ever ask for from a hip-hop collective in 2015.



The Whiskey Live Festival – 18-21 June, The Lookout, V&A Waterfront

King Tutankhamun – 2 June – 17 September, Grandwest

Assembly Presents: FutureNow Fridays – 19 June, The Assembly

Disney on Ice – 26 June – 5 July, The Dome, JoBurg

Trevor Noah’s Lost in Translation – 18 June – 5 July, Montecasino

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by Vicky Rowe

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