Jepchumba is a digital artist, enthusiast and founder of African Art Digital – the go to website for all things art and design from the Africa continent. Now based in Chicago, the Kenyan native keeps up with the latest creative developments and has created a platform to showcase the plethora of African creatives: from photographers to animators, emerging and established artists.
With ADA gaining international traction, Jepchumba has been invited to speak at events such as Think Infinite Google and SXSW. Earlier this year the BBC asked Jepchumba to curate a series of images representative of modern day African that coincided with BBC’s Africa Debate on the continent’s global image. It was only right and proper that LBB caught up with the digital innovator.
Q) Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I guess you can call me a digital enthusiast. I am obsessed with creativity and how it relates with technology. I accidentally branded myself as digitalafrican but it is a true statement to my interest and passion. I am originally from Kenya but I have a lived all around the world. Some say I have a ‘diasporan’ complex because being away from home has made me fascinated with connecting back to Africa, professionally, personally and creatively.
Other than being completely a geeky girl I am the founder of African Digital Art Network, an organization that I started to promote and foster the growth of creativity through technology in Africa.
Q) What is African Digital Art?
African Digital Art is a collective and creative space where digital artists, enthusiasts and professionals can seek inspiration, showcase their artistry and connect with emerging artists. Since its inception African Digital Art has grown to be a source of inspiration to Africa’s creative economy. We try our best to promote artists and work that continue to push digital boundaries. We are proud to have presented an unparalleled ideas, individualistic works and insightful designer solutions by African creatives. African Digital Art has become a platform for innovation and inspiration with a sophisticated blend of fresh talent and successful designers and artists.
Q) What was the inspiration and personal motivation for creating such a site?
African Digital Art grew out of my Masters degree in Digital Media but it was really born out of a need to see Africa in a different light. Before we begun, Africa was seen as traditional and unaffected by technology. When it came to creativity or the arts I only found traditional art and it was hard not to miss this gap where new artists who were just like me where emerging. So I wanted people to know that there was this other side of Africa that was growing and emerging a digital Africa where artists, entrepreneurs and communities were expressing themselves through technology in ways you’d be surprised. I think that what is most exciting for me, personally is to be at the front seat of where the continent is heading creatively.
Q) What is the state of ‘creative industry’ within the African continent and is there a particular country/sector thriving?
Creative Africa is burgeoning however we still have a long long way to go. It is hard to speak for an entire continent when there are so many varying degrees and conditions and histories but I am constantly surprised at the level of talent and ingenuity. Where we need help is in our education and supporting creative communities to grow. There are countries like South Africa that have exploded into the international scene with illustration, animation and graphic design, Nigeria’s nollywood industry doesn’t seem to be slowing down. There are also countries like Cameroon and Senegal that continue to experiment with Video Art and Digital expression. What I can say is that we are in store for so much more so stay tuned at africandigitalart.com
Q) What do you find exciting about the development of the digital sector within Africa?
African digital art has the ability to transcend barriers. Art is a powerful tool for communication, combined with technology it is a formidable force. There are many untold stories in Africa and art has the ability to give African communities a way to express and share their stories and experiences. Art, especially digital art, is also a form of ingenuity that often fosters innovation. Through creative exercise new solutions are brought to light which often help empower individuals to improve their communities. In terms of development, art can be a powerful weapon to motivate, inspire and direct individuals towards change.
Q) What are your thoughts about the wests current ‘rebranding + repositioning’ of Africa? And do you think there is also a movement within the continent to reposition itself globally?
I think what is exciting is that technology has allowed Africa to be rebranded organically. If you just browse through our site you will see Africa in a way you never really knew existed. You see more examples of these fresh perspectives all through the internet. Africans are producing content that are affecting the way the continent is being viewed. As a continent we are gaining more opportunities to finally speak for ourselves.
Q) You were recently asked to curate some images for the BBC to represent Africa, what were your initial thoughts when asked to execute such as task? Did you interpret it as an ‘artist’ or ‘politically’ or maybe both?
It was a great privilege to curate for the BBC on the Image of Africa. It was a tremendous task to represent an entire continent in about 12 images. I tried my best to select images that spoke for themselves about the experiences in contemporary modern Africa. I think what is unique to my experience as curator for this project and also for African Digital Art is that I always come from it as the point of view of an artist.
Q) What are your predictions for the continent?
I am not a fortune teller if I was I would be very wealthy. However what I can say is that Africa has enormous creative capital. We are just beginning to understand the value of ideas on our continent. For the first time in history one of the biggest companies in the world is a creative company. We are living in the times of the creative class where ideas are seen as valuable as currency. I think that there is so much unexplored talent and ideas. We have always been powerful communicators I think Africa will have so much to offer in the future in terms of innovation, storytelling and solutions and we hope to be there to cover all the creativity that comes about.