The AfricaMuseum is a series of exhibitions on Africa and its history. But the museum has been trying to take a fresh look at this subject since its recent reopening. The AfricaTube project is one way of doing this. Two "Tubers", Aisha Adepoju and Primrose Ntumba, invited Glo.be to take a look behind the scenes of the project.
The AfricaMuseum wanted to focus not only on the past, but also on the present and especially the future, so it embarked on a new project: AfricaTube. In a nutshell, this is a virtual library dedicated to contemporary digital Africa. The objective is to create a link between the AfricaMuseum and African cyberspace. But there is much more to say, so let's take a look at this unique project.
Africa and the West, two parallel digital worlds
On the web, is it important to know where Internet users come from? That is the question that a series of young people from the African diaspora in Belgium asked themselves. To answer this question, these young people, aged 16 to 25, explored the web in search of content directly produced by Africans and Afro-descendants. But their task was not that easy. Why not? Aisha Adepoju explains: "It is difficult for everything that Africans produce on the web to reach us, because their content is subject to Western algorithms generated by search engines like Google and others". In other words, when a Westerner does a search on the net, Western sites are suggested first. "But that doesn't mean that Africans are not present in the digital world. It is important for the world to know that Africans also create, produce and invent technological tools as well as cultural products!", says Aisha.
It is difficult for everything that Africans produce on the web to reach us, because their content is subject to Western algorithms generated.
On the way to exploring the African digital sphere
Technology has experienced incredible growth in recent years and continues to get a foothold in our daily lives. Meanwhile, Africa has the fastest growing youth population in the world. This new generation then starts to connect online and to use digital spaces to define new visual identities that are more in tune with contemporary Africa. However, since these points of view do not easily reach us, too many clichés and misconceptions still come to mind when we think of Africa.
This is where AfricaTube comes in. The project has three main objectives. Firstly, to bridge the digital divide between the West and Africa in terms of representations of Africans and Afro-descendants. Secondly, to use the great potential of the Internet to change the way Westerners perceive the African continent. Lastly, to create a link with young people from the African diasporas all over the world. "Thanks to the Internet and social media, a strong unity can develop among Afro-descendants throughout the world. We can even create a new identity that transcends borders. This is already happening, and the ideal would be for Africa itself to develop its distribution networks. But that is only possible if the West emerges from its digital bubble," explains Primrose Ntumba.
Thanks to the Internet and social media, a strong unity can develop among Afro-descendants throughout the world. We can even create a new identity that transcends borders.
How is AfricaTube set up in the museum?
In the AfricaTube space, visitors can watch African videos or listen to African music via touch screens or wall projections. This is an innovative way to understand what is happening on the web concerning Africa, its young people and its cultural achievements. The exhibition is presented under five themes:
- Digital gap: introduces the public to the issue of access to technology on the African continent.
- Tech and innovation: presents the initiatives undertaken by young people who are using technologies to create innovative content.
- Sharing knowledge: highlights alternative ways of sharing digital content.
- ID & New narratives: presents artists and platforms creating new local stories and images on the African continent.
- Social movements: highlights how African nations and their younger generations are critically engaged across the continent.
Finally, AfricaTube is an innovative way of learning more about what is happening on the African continent while fighting the clichés that still persist all too often with regard to the countries of the South.
Two questions for the Tubers
What is Africa's place in the digital world?
Aisha Adepoju: The Internet is evolving at two speeds. On the one hand, the West lives in a kind of digital bubble in which Internet users read articles, listen to music and watch videos of only Western origin. On the other hand, Africa is undergoing a digital revolution fuelled by the emergence of high-speed Internet and cybercafés. In this environment, many talented young Africans are getting involved on the web, whether politically or culturally. This means that Africans are present on the web but have little visibility in our media.
Primrose Ntumba: And that's precisely why we set up AfricaTube. What image do Westerners have of Africans, when search engine algorithms prevent Westerners from accessing digital content from Africa and this content is not represented in our traditional media? AfricaTube allows visitors to see images of Africa that they would not find or would be unlikely to find in social media.
What makes AfricaTube a unique project?
Primrose Ntumba: AfricaTube wants to give a direct vision of what contemporary Africa is like. In a way, it is the space in the museum that provides other narrative content, speeches and perspectives on the African continent, as it displays videos, photos and music produced directly by today's young African generation.
Who are the two Tubers interviewed?
Aisha Adepoju is 23 years old and studied documentary cinema at RITCS. After graduation, she began working full time on the AfricaTube project. During her research, she focused mainly on cultural production. She created the project story on the basis of her collected results. It is Aisha who keeps it alive in the new AfricaMuseum and ensures follow-up.
Primrose Ntumba is 26 years old and studied Communication at the VUB. After volunteering, she started working for the AfricaMuseum. She focuses mainly on communication and relations with the African diasporas.