IDEAS 2017: WITNESSING A FUTURISTIC NOW (PART 2)

image credit: Arts & culture diaries

In 2015 Ideas had no borders, last year the expo bodly stated that “The Future is now”. The theme was carried into 2017, corroborating the statement through multiple-stakeholder inclusion. Bloggers, creative brand strategists and comedians carrying the new wave of different aspects of technology, plugging them into their industries seamlessly. Our Afrolutionist Mmabatho Motsamai details her experience of the creatively informative mid-morning and afternoon of the expo.

Gearing back to individual speakers, GroundXero Creative Director Kenny Mumba introduced us to the world of film and photography in the digital age.  Mumba has an impressive body of work, have collaborated with Airtel Zambia, Tidal, and his breakout documentary in the Oprah Winfrey Network. Mumba shared realistic secrets in forging collaborations. As a Pan-African who wanted to shift the narrative of Africa in the film and photography space he realized the need to host a strong team. You are only as strong as your weakest link, is a cliché because of its truth. Mumba adds that the team must not only be strong, but also as passionate as you are. Additionally, collaborations require a strong value proposition from both ends. According to Mumba, collaborations that lack value mean nothing.

Last speaker before lunch was multi-talented xhosa speaking coloured Donovan David Goliath  (true story) of Goliath and Goliath. Goliath’s masterclass turned inspiring story taught me one important aspect in career; most of the times, more is not more. Minimalism and bottom-lining of communication has been the secret to his success in fine art, comedy, restaurateur and holistic growth. Goliath’s elaborated love for Wu Tang Clan’s logo became a subconscious shape of his career imprint. Minimalism through embedding the fundamental story one wants to communicate.  Minimalism also falls into the art of starting your career. According to Goliath, you don’t need the most resources to build your career, you always have everything you need. Goliath used his hands to creates breath-taking artwork that paid for his tuition in University. He had friends that collectively shaped his brief rap-career. He had people who shared his surname that has built the disruptive entity that is Goliath and Goliath. He believes, that if you have smart phone, data and a story to tell – nothing should stop you.

The audience broke into a lunch and with the digestive system at work, mentally adjust into their role of a conference’s graveyard shift. Little did they know that they’ll be disrupted by Creative Brand Strategist Taelo Immanuel’s take on the 4th industrial generation for Africa. Immanuel believes that there is no need for decolonization, and that undocumented history should be left just there – in history. He believes that Africa is called the dark continent because it carries no global influence. According to Immanuel, Africa is poor because it is poorly educated, and that its only hope is through holistically adopting the new trends of the 4th industrial revolution – educating the continent as well as injecting it with the Global North’s trends. To Immanuel, our kinks in the hair, or culture is unimportant. We can completely develop new identities shaped from our colonizers to develop as was he alleges The Great Britain had done. Instead of African solutions to African problems, Immanuel believes in human solutions to human problems.

While I am an insufferable Pan-African, I do believe in solving our continent’s problems with a human lens as Africa has more shared problems and opportunities with the Global South. However, I believe the possibility of adapting to the historical culture and contextualizing it to today’s trends. A lot of young Africans are doing so in fashion, medicine, sustainable farming practices and architecture. It is possible to do both. I am also weary of those who generalize the continent when it comes to a new economic revolution when 55 countries each have their own status of economy growth. The continent does not bear a collective consciousness when it comes to politics and economies. We are not growing at the same pace – which makes it difficult to harness a one-size-fits-all argument to the continent’s economic progress.

These were pacifying sentiments carried by the last speaker Strategy Consultant Kirsten Leeuw, who guided the audience through an Afro-optomistic approach of owning influence and innovation. Leeuw’s idea of innovation is based on fear on losing our collective identity, but rather built on opportunity and ownership of ideas that were born here. She did note that innovation is chiseled by failure, but that is not a pull factor from innovating. Citing Thomas Edison’s quote on how he didn’t fail 1000 times in the creation of a light bulb but found 1000 ways it didn’t work, Leeuw realistically guided the audience through the cyclical journey of how innovation starts from evolution to revolution:

Leeuw believes in harnessing the culture of innovation in various levels throughout the continent. She believes innovation should be part of our DNA. That through innovation, the UN SDG related problems can be solved through our own context.

In a nutshell the Ideas Expo this year held true to their theme, however, it is slowly succumbing to a talk-shop. Its influence on the creative industry is  becoming questionable through a lack of multiple stakeholder inclusion. The audience is typically characterized by people in the advertising industry. Its lack of marketing is reflective of a low attendance as I believe students, stakeholders from civil society, government and private sector have roles to play in creative holistic growth for the country. In another light, as the only platform where creative discussions are held, it may be plausible that we are expecting more from this event. Perhaps this truly is an exclusive space for the creative advertising industry and not a space for fine arts, ICT freaks and other skill based creatives to thrive. This may be why we don’t hear much about people who have booked stalls and their ROI from the event. I do hope however, that the organizers can get back to the drawing board and create manners that can make the event more inclusive.