The so-called internet of things (IoT), along with big data, artificial intelligence, and blockchain, continue to shape the future of artistic practice the world over and not only in the U.S. and Europe, which have tended to be the focus of most digital art surveys. In this fast-digitizing landscape, a new generation of African artists have emerged who are using digital technology as their canvas to create art and to disseminate their work.
This generation of artists embracing digital art are at the vanguard of aesthetic innovation, creating artwork that explores socioeconomic and political realities, collective memories, and the diversity of experiences on the continent and in its diaspora. To survey these artists, ARTnews has selected 10 who offer immersive digital art experiences of note. Capital picked the two Ethiopian featured.
In Leul’s artworks, traditional African elements like face painting, head crowns, cloth patterns, beads, masks, drums and calabashes are contrasted with futuristic technologies. The Ethiopian artist’s work is characterized by Afrofuturistic themes centering on joy and peace. His aim is to debunk stereotypical myths about a continent that has often gone misrepresented—works such as “Beautiful Heirloms” depict the essence of preserving memory through traditional storytelling, a practice he describes as “inheritance used as a vehicle to preserve shared values and collective experience for future generations.” Even with a B.F.A. from Addis Ababa’s Alle School of Fine Arts & Industrial Design, Leul describes himself as a self-taught artist. (Nevertheless, in his digital artworks, a strong knowledge of color theory and a comprehensive understanding of design principles is evident.) Ultimately, Leul seeks to inspire African artists to own agency of their narratives.
Co-founded by Kiya Tadele and based in Ethopia, Yatreda is an artist collective whose work seeks to explore the intersection between art and digital technology with an aim of celebrating and archiving Ethiopian history on the blockchain as part of their NFT portfolio. Their first NFT Project Kingdoms of Ethiopia sought to raise awareness about Ethiopian traditional culture with stunning motion portraits that deeply captured the traditional stories of Kings, warriors and kingdoms. Also, their most recent NFT project titled “Strong Hair” comprises of a collection of 100 lopping motion portraits that celebrate the diversity of traditional African hairstyles including the Afros, the shaved patterns and the unique braids that are disappearing. The collective is using their crypto art as a way to help others and themselves rediscover their identity and pride.
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