Dr Tegan Bristow is Director of Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival, Johannesburg, South Africa. Founded in 2014, the festival takes as it starting point the idea that in order for innovation with technology to succeed, a strong connection needs to be made to African cultural practices and creative encounters.Alongside fundraising, annual curation and program development, Bristow leads a small, annually engaged group of producers and project managers in developing and managing multiple content producers and creative partners across the African continent and internationally. She is also Senior Lecturer in Interactive Digital Media at the Wits School of the Arts, Johannesburg, where she specializes in African Art, Culture and Technology.
Bristow is Editor in Chief and Digital Editor of the Ellipses Journal of Creative Research. She is also adeveloper of interactive digital media in installation, performance, screen-based and online media. In 2017,Bristow completed her PhD on Decoloniality and Actional Methodologies in Art and Cultural Practices in African Cultures of Technology, which she wrote with the Planetary Collegium at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Arts at Plymouth University in the UK. Her curatorial highlights beyond Fak’ugesi Festival include Digital Imaginaries (2018) at Afro Pixel, Senegal, Wits Art Museum, South Africa, and ZKM, Germany; The Centre for the Less Good Idea (2017); and Post African Futures (2015) with the Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.
A School for Vernacular Algorithms, Wits Art Museum
In this paper I unpack the nature and importance of an “African Fractals” module and how it uses the museum collection to expand on a critical encounter with the deep histories and deep futures of digital culture in Africa.
In response to research developed through Post African Futures: Decoloniality and Actional Methodologies in Art and Cultural Practices in African Cultures of Technology (2017), I expanded the curriculum of Digital Art Theory in the Wits School of Arts. Aimed at students in both the engineering and arts programs, the course addressed key debates in digital culture. This new focus, titled “African Fractals“, centered on the Wits Art Museum collection but did so through the lens of fractal mathematics and what we began to call “vernacular algorithms.”
The “African Fractals” module went on to inform a research artwork titled “A Vocabulary for Vernacular Algorithms” developed for the Digital Imaginaries exhibition series in 2018, which was presented at both the Wits Art Museum and ZKM | Center of Media Arts in Karlsruhe, Germany. Additionally, the module informs the exhibition A School for Vernacular Algorithms to be presented in 2021 at Le Lieu Unique in Nantes, France, as part of the Afrotopia and University of African Futures programs curated by Oulimata Gueye.