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Africult, an online African cultural platform

Youth Forum
December 17, 2015
"Digital technology in support of cultural diversity in Africa: Africult, an online African cultural platform” by Manuela Boma-Atta and Julie Bourdin was awarded the Media CSR Innovation Vivendi-Sciences Po Grand Prix.
 

How can a young South African woman and a young Togolese woman blend and share their respective cultures? That was our starting point for this project. As energetic young Africans, we were looking for an approach to culture that would speak to African youth, but, more importantly, a means of showing them the diversity of their cultures. We also wanted to create an exchange and genuine connection between the two cultures, one from Eastern Africa and the other from Southern Africa. We found the starting point we were looking for in music. Since we are both passionate music lovers, but listen to rather different musical genres, we thought about setting up an inter-African music festival. But we were immediately confronted with the problem of mobility in Africa: it is currently difficult to travel at an affordable price on the continent, especially for young students like us. That's when digital technology came to our rescue: we tried to imagine a way to disseminate African music via the Internet.

Then we thought that, if the Internet can span thousands of kilometers, why limit ourselves to music? So we came up with the idea of creating Africult, an online African cultural platform. In an Africa where the Internet would naturally be more accessible and, above all, faster, we imagined an online cultural platform that would include music, art and poetry, with a little something extra: ‘vines,’ which are videos lasting just a few seconds and which have become a big hit in the last few years on social networks. In what follows, we will try to explain the thought process that led to Africult, the online African cultural center.

We love music, so taking our inspiration from the Spotify network, we wondered: Why not create a listening platform devoted entirely to African music? But we realized that such models already exist in the form of playlists on sites such as YouTube. Then another concept came to mind. Playlists are made up of artists and songs that are already known, but this project’s objective would be to discover new talent. Africa is full to overflowing with different musical styles, sounds and talent. We therefore proposed that young, unknown artists who want to share their work and love of music could post their compositions to Africult, regardless of genre. Then Africult subscribers, using a system of ‘likes’ (positive votes) and ‘dislikes’ (negative votes), could ‘rate’ the compositions of these talented young creators. Each ‘like’ would save the artist to the subscriber’s personal account, so that they could follow the artist’s career. Africult would thus provide an opportunity for young Africans to discover new talent, genres and culture from all parts of Africa, while providing a platform for artists to make themselves known and create a community of fans, even in environments that are not always conducive to the development of their talent.

But how can we blend musical genres from different countries? How can we encourage young people to take an interest in artistic creations that are different from those they are used to, and step out of their comfort zone to explore the continent’s cultural diversity? This led us to our second idea of setting up ‘mashup’ competitions.

A ‘mashup’ is a musical composition created by blending two or more songs to create a new piece. For example, we would also offer subscribers an opportunity to create mashups, according to certain criteria: a mashup should include songs from five different African countries at minimum, and three languages spoken in Africa. Subscribers would then vote for the mashup of the month or the week, depending on the number of compositions received. The purpose of a mashup is to blend several musical genres. A Moroccan, a Beninese, a Ugandan and a Kenyan could all end up in the same composition. The idea of music as a universal language would then display its true meaning.

Given our creative ambitions for this project, however, we didn’t want to stop there. While looking at religious art on the walls of a church, we conceived the idea of broadening the music platform to include art in general. Many African artists, painters, photographers and sculptors clearly have trouble making themselves known and living from their art. So Africult would also have a Visual Arts section where artists could digitalize and post their works with the goal of introducing them to a wider audience. There would also be a Literature section, where aspiring or experienced poets and writers could post their works, giving them a chance to be read and discovered. Africult would thus become a cultural voice and a vehicle for exploring African talent.

We also wanted to provide a more entertaining dimension. What better way to entertain yourself on the Internet than to watch funny videos online? With the emergence of many young comedians on the Web performing skits depicting generational conflicts or scenes from daily life, we want to offer subscribers a chance to explore Africa’s cultural diversity through short comic videos known as vines. Subscribers could make short videos featuring comic situations from everyday life in their countries. Through these videos, young Africans would provide a humorous view of their country’s culture.

To sum up: Africult is an online African cultural platform, comprising music, art, painting, poetry, photography, videos and more. Its goal is to foster the discovery of new talent from Africa and, above all, to share and disseminate African culture by Africans, for Africans. As a result, the website would take on a new dimension, in addition to entertainment, motivated by a solid goal of promoting social cohesion through the discovery of new artists, who could make a living from their art while developing and enriching their communities in return. We already have a logo in mind: Africa topped with headphones reaching from the Gulf of Guinea to the Horn of Africa, decorated with various symbols of art: a pencil, a camera, a canvas and so on.

As it develops, Africult will acquire partners and sponsors in the world of the arts that will enable these artists to make a living from their works and their passion. And producers and art patrons could also discover new talent via the site. Perhaps Vivendi will even become the site’s first sponsor, and produce a disc by the first artist to reach a million ‘likes’?

 

Student of the Europe-Africa Sciences Po Program, Manuela Boma-Atta was born in Togo and received a merit Excellence-Major scholarship granted by French government. She created with other classmates EurafTV the web TV of Europe-Africa Sciences Po Program. Besides, she is in charge of the communication of the association « Education et Questions Africaines » that raises awareness in schools against African stereotypes. She would like to work in development economics, especially in the education field.

Julie Bourdin is Franco-South-African and has lived in Madagascar, Brazil and South Africa. The 19 year-old speaks French, Afrikaans, English, Portuguese and German. This student of the Europe-Africa Sciences Po Program is fond of journalism. She was involved in the creation of EurafTV and still hosts some programs. Julie is also a member - with Manuela - of the association « Education et Questions Africaines ».

 

 

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