Afroroutes: Africa Elsewhere

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Video in TIB AV-Portal: Afroroutes: Africa Elsewhere

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Title
Afroroutes: Africa Elsewhere
Subtitle
VR experience "Beyond Slavery"
Title of Series
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CC Attribution 4.0 International:
You are free to use, adapt and copy, distribute and transmit the work or content in adapted or unchanged form for any legal purpose as long as the work is attributed to the author in the manner specified by the author or licensor.
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Release Date
2018
Language
English

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Subject Area
Abstract
Let's think "Beyond Slavery": Afroroutes is a one-of-a-kind VR experience conceived as a journey through 3 displaced African heritages, immersing users in Rituals and Ceremonies to experience that well-conserved memory form, but also to feel the power of Music as a strong anthropological tool. Connecting Afro-diasporic narratives: alterity and heritage transcendence within the digital era, Afroroutes is a trigger to open a crucial debate about diasporic identity.
Keywords Art & Culture

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[Music] most recently in South Africa it was an awesome experience awesome people awesome culture but why I only experienced the tourists way Salem hobby brings us the local guide culture Salem allows an immersive and almost physical experience of the African identity please welcome on stage Salem hobby and ephra routes hi
so first of all thank you very much to be here I wasn't expecting so much crowd so again give a big applause for yourself thank you very very much to be here thank you for the CCC the first time I'm here and really like experiencing something totally new for me and thank you for the curators thank you for really giving me the stage to explore with you for this project which is after roots first of all I want to tell you something which is very personal the very first time when I was in Africa in North Africa I was invited for a ceremony a ritual in Morocco this ceremony is a kanawa I don't know if you heard about it so basically I was surrounded by African descendants and I knew then that those descendant are slaves descendants that has been transported and displaced from sub-saharan Africa to Morocco so this ceremony was pretty powerful for me and the more I asked question about what is the purpose of this why are you doing that I really started to explore the history of Africa through that so a couple of years after that I was luckily able to be in Brazil in South in Salvador Bahia so and I was also invited
to kind of ceremony called condom bleh I don't know if you some of you heard about it and the thing is that during the condom bleh ritual they were explaining me that we do that just to reconnect to the African continent to reconnect with our ancestors and our history our slavery history so between Morocco and Brazil I knew that my story is there so a fruit is born out of this conviction that the displaced culture from Africa crossing
the sea to Latin America was a pretty unexplored story we see it like slavery slavery could be a very very large concept large idea very heavy history for the African himself and I wanted absolutely to avoid those kind of images
that we used to see I don't know if some of you so Amistad the film and this like classical narratives of blacks being bitten etc which is reality I wanted to go beyond that and I wanted to explore how those diaspora still connected with the ancestors and how is the function of music within this ceremony so basically a fruit is born out of this perspective second of all I've been also luckily involved in a great project three three years ago four years ago where I explored or I got in touch with a fantastic medium which is virtual reality I don't know if some of you tried some VR but VR was for me a really new exploration of of how we can tell story differently how can we really engage and put man creates another type of connection with stories and have a totally different approaches time and space this project called the enemy allows me really to write my perspective as a storyteller and really go into a totally different path so so I decided to use this medium which is the VR not
because I'm more like many of actors now in the media field surfing the hype or whatever it's cool to have the goggles and say wow it's fantastic it's just because I was deeply convinced that VR is the proper medium for this story so
virtual reality I'm not in here the pressure of the eyes it's for me very powerful medium in the sense of it puts you really in the center of a reality it you don't have to receive data you don't receive a narrative you don't receive you just put into center of reality and you empower your view somehow to to really interpret it in a very subjective way what you see and what you feel in my eyes it could be also as as as I as I
here you can see it could be really the next anthropology tools and in that sense it will transform the whole knowledge that we could have one century long into real experiences which is totally different than just reading a book that someone else wrote it or imagined so VR is creating powerful
memories because just for the fact that it's provide the context of what you are seeing
so please first of all take a look about trailer of a fruit and we talked a little bit after no sound it's okay it happens [Music] [Music] [Music] centuries ago many Africans were forced to leave their countries there were spread in different corners of the world long journey through lands and seas they left everything behind they had to leave they could only keep their language their culture and of course their music so there is a bigger story and slavery
itself this project is not another
apology of slavery I wanted to get my
own words what happened after where are
the slaves descendants today what did they produce in terms of cultures how is
the heritage leave the separated is
there any tangible memory form so I decided to follow the path of their slavery rules and I knew that music we
got my journey
[Music] for many years I traveled in different
countries Ament several dancers and
experience at their welcome certain culture and of course their music no
history book could explain the slavery and the cultural dynamics would be
better than being amused this is exactly
what a foolish project is about I'm
using virtual reality on 360 videos to take you on a journey to meet those
African descendants to hear their stories and experience the heritage here
is my consent as you start to experience
you will be surrounded by four characters simply by choosing one you will be brought to the destination the character will tell you the story will show you his surroundings before bringing you to a specific rich one [Music] [Music] 'my name is under love we'll have to go i am madame hope you know what in 10
years I am born in died ignore the
slaves house I go up there
and that's not all we want to bring you
much closer at the end you will be invited to play music for the characters
to feel that physical experience so
basically I decided to go on music in this journey because before drafting the
first prototype by writing the concept of this project I added a lot of researchers and one of my biggest hurdle was I wasn't able to find trustfull archives I wasn't able to find really powerful testimonies of what's happened exactly the only archives I could found were where somewhere in the Western world not in Africa not in African biblio techs somehow kind of jailed into Western biblioth??que of big institutions so for me was a big problem and most of this narrative or the version of this narrative is basically written by people who enslaved the Africans so for me was a big problem I can not tell this story from the perspective of Western perspective which I used of course
because it gives a lot of data and information so so for me was clear in order to tell this story I need to go deeper into archives I need to get to go really into what we call the meta archives which is simply the oral tradition it's what the people used to say and transmit generation after generation in this case music was absolutely what I was looking for because if you look at that little bit of the history those communities wherever through the transatlantic slave trade specific turns a slave trade or the trans-saharan slave trade that's like four hundred fifty five hundred years but the communities in Brazil for example they're still speaking Yoruba which is the language from western coast the people the city in India they're still talking kiswahili so it is really powerful how the music could maintain this intangible form in a very intact way and it's still very very powerful so I decided to go absolutely on music and explore this displacement through music as you can see in this map I could identify also several diasporas first of all in North Africa which is the gunawan understand Bela communities which are sub-saharan African transported through the slavery caravans from the West from the Sahara to North Africa you have also the transatlantic slave trade which is mainly the entry door was a Vedado by year 90% of all slaves transported from the western coast where preceded the entry door was Salvador da Bahia and from there was they were spread into the whole Kerik and from there to the US so for me Salvador da Bahia was a key point to explore this and another very untold story I'm coming like three weeks ago from Gujarat from India where I've been able to visit and explore a little bit the other journey which is the trans-pacific trance yes trans-pacific journey from the Indian cities the African descendant from the eastern coast Zanzibar and Kenya so I try to have this three destination to have a better overview of what those traditions are so let me explain you shortly what you expect in this experience so basically you will
have a menu three characters will be in front of you and as I say in the trailer you just have to pick up one we choose one and you just embark you don't know where who is the and you don't know where you embark it's exactly like the slaves condition at that time so you embark to in destination and at the end you will discover where is the destination so and
of course you will meet three characters first of all what you saw in the trailer was a maestro healer and you now a maestro called Abdullah gods from Tangier Morocco losing you do JJ which is a no gun a percussionist in a condom play group in Salvador da Bahia and city gamma which is a band in city in in India African descendant and performing the what they call de mal which is a ritual from southern India okay so the
experience is quite simple you get into this menu you choose a character and then you have a very linear story 360 story actually the purpose of that is to have this character trying to define the place the environment who is and trying to introduce you slowly to this to this community and after that you will be totally in a ceremony and a ritual and a specific ritual you could ask me why ritual what what is ritual why you choose to put us in the ritual personally I think that a ritual or ceremony is in one hand the pure manifestation of that well-conserved memory once and in the other hand it is a multimedia explosion you see things
you see colors you see dance you listen to music you you just explore Knolls in all senses and in that sense vr is very powerful to transmit that of course as user you will be able to stop if you want but and this is why how technology is very powerful in this project you can go further because the structure of the ritual is basically the music is going to go a little bit up and up and up in the ritual the people go in trance why because this the strength is the way to reconnect with these ancestors for some people maybe it's like something really new but the music frequencies that are produced during a ceremony whatever with drums whatever with other instrument jingles etc put them in a situation where they really connect connect with an ancestor who they're with a heritage with the memories and the channel of this project was to reproduce this me or you are you you may want to experience that so what what you are doing now basically is we are working on a technical solution basically an algorithm which which measuring your frequencies and your body movement if you want to go and trance you can if you want to stay in the ritual you can the more you stay the more the music will go up and more will transport you with them if you if it's too much for you you step back and you go back to the menu as simple as that
those are some testimonies because during this project as many of you doing project you you have moments when you're doubting you say what what I do what's this why are you doing that so what I always do is like when I produce the first prototype I go to the people back and say look this is what I'm doing what do you think so the this master of you know I told me this is what I always dreamed about I knew that I have brothers in the other side so for me it's a very powerful testimony that the memory is still gravitating between the sea and they know that they have parents family that crossed the borders or cross the sea and they are there so for me it's very powerful to know that those people understand what is the purpose of this work and from the other side too so in
Brazil had this crazy testimony which but where this mother Santos told me we don't need passport anymore so we can be everywhere lately in India mister Serbia
which is the lead singer of the city told me this is our music there so for me all those testimonies show me that this project is on a good path somehow and the purpose why I'm doing that is actually I think beyond music and beyond slavery and etc this dynamics of displacement when people move from place to place they carry on a set of knowledge set of wisdom with them and sometimes I think is it's it's gonna be lost somehow in the space or but I don't think so personally I think that memories still alive always and music is really powerful to tell us that the memory can be always kept intact and what I learned also through this project is that through the suffering of being displaced of being taken somewhere else they create beauty beauty has been created celebrated transcended into a new identity which is
very beautiful because if you see the Brazilians they are now part of Brazil despite the whole harsh situation that they are living there living there that they're still they adapted to new environment where they are and it's the same for all displaced cultures from Africa so
outputs of this project first of all we will produce an app which is going to be free to download so that everyone can experience it on very normal basic cardboard and also a multi user experience so one of my main purpose and of doing this project so I want to have a kind of social impact through that I want to explain somehow the slavery in a totally different way I want to have a kind of educational part of this project so I want that children can go through that listen to some music listen to - to - to some strong story but also understand differently what happens because maybe we love to dance on soul music jazz music but somehow we forget
where it's coming from and what is the whole journey that we all today pretend that we are open and love this jazz music and stuff but we don't understand where it's coming from why is it like this how how those displaced communities had lived that we today can listen to the music and enjoy it so actually I am in order to finish
this small speech you know what's this so actually I made I made some research because early this year was invited to have two to TEDx talk in Cape Verde and the timer was roots Watson and I met some research and I found out that 99% of the planes on this earth
cannot live without roots in the soil only one plant and this plant is magic this plant could transform the role of the roots in the soil through the Leafs the name of this plant is T Lancias and it's a very inspiring plant because it
has like through the years transformed the role of the roots into to something else it leaves without roots for me it's a very inspiring plant because it's kind of reminders that we are we are all like
kind of we can reinvent ourselves and this is the case also for those displaced communities they've been reinvented something they're really transformed and transformed transcend their identity do something beautiful so so far I'm and I came to the end of my pitch thank you very much if you have
questions [Music] small note on the end he said earlier that he brought the prototype mm-hmm and I think you're able and willing to
show us yeah for if people want to test it I have a prototype for me so outside
maybe yes perfect in this case I think you meet each other outside in front of the room if you have questions there are two microphones please ask your
questions and please speak out loud into the microphone directly number two
please thank you for your talk I know from Brazil but I think this is valid for the other locations too that there are actually discussions that Sara moves like this which a sacred should not be easily accessible to outsiders and especially to Europeans who come there usually as a tourist and see that as like cheap attraction and then they go and go back to the resort or something so how would you situate your project and in those discussion or did you take part in them okay thank you for this question actually it took me one and a half year to define the right person and to work it out to get into a condom blade session exactly they didn't wanted to reduce it to sheep entertainment which is not the case first of all they were saying to me what you come from Europe you want to just reduce our spirituality into into an entertainment and it took me a lot of time to really convince my local producer there which is part of the family of condom play that's not the case I'm coming with a totally different concept of course we are it's a kind of golden gate you opened for that and they they're not like used to let everybody to those ceremonies and those rituals especially in Brazil where the social economic pressure and situation is really special is really harsh so for them condom blades kind of identity it's us you know it's kind of this is and this is the other Brazil so yes I it took me a long time to convince the people to establish trust and to really be there many times and to to let them understand look it is a project that aims to connect those they are spark heritage you know I want to show this to maybe your brothers and sisters in in India in Morocco and it worked out so somehow we are it's it's giving you as author also this question of ethic because you don't frame something you put the user inside a set so and for them it's a kind of secret you know I don't know if some people of you being have been in a condom blade session it is very powerful like when the drum starting and going up and up and up and up it's it's phantom in its it's a global before yeah that goes up and for them it's a way to be it's a way to say here we are we don't forget we are here we celebrate we cry we we love and we live here and don't forget where we're coming from so this magical gates that VR is up and of course it gives the whole kind of responsibility somehow thank you next question interwebs oh nice in this case I have doubles you know yes for me never to please thank you for your talk I would like to add a little bit to that questions only please okay
so what's a question the question is I can't do that I need to add something because I think that some things are not presented right are just wrong and candidly is not just anything but it is a dark and okay in this case watching to discussion best well as you can according to something which cannot be shortened okay go ahead and the condom bleh and the yoruba are directly connected and have a religious foundation so this is just an addition about that and also there was something wrong in your talk you said that there was the people were deported to North America did not go through South America but they also went directly there they were transported directly there so just those additions I would love to discuss with you this further and not to and also of course everybody can ask me after that because I don't want to monopolize this okay thank you very much okay next question please number two
question so if your only aim were to connect the communities why how is the
like free downloadable app then into that so I could you maybe elaborate on that entertainment part a little bit more because I don't see that point fully treated by your answer and the other question is this to any profit in your project in the PS who gets that profit okay first of all why an app because basically I want to share it with people as simple as that profit till now we don't have any profits we produce a prototype after prototype with with a company based in Berlin which is in VR so we got small money just to to produce that and to make it in a good way and to explore VR first of all as as a storytelling tool so there is no not profit in that sense I'm of these projects since two and a half year so we got small like like grants from cultural institutions to make research but beyond that I mean the main purpose is not to make money out of this basically the main purpose is to distribute it to shift somehow the conscience of people to present this issue in a totally different way but also to try to somehow engage debate you know to unroot a narrative which is in our really conscience still there we see blacks as you know slaves etc etc we we don't have it easy to really decode what happened you know in terms of culture in terms of anthropology so this project is an attempt to that is a trigger so that's why we're here we discuss about that so till now we didn't like really have business plan for this for this project but I would be very happy that people can see it first of all yeah thank and number two again please yes
thank you ceiling for this talk and I'm just you started with VR is a tool for anthropology and then you refer to it again could you please elaborate a little bit more on this anthropology how this plays a role in your project yeah
so is clear enough to give you some point for starting yeah so I think that the was part of your of the answer still in the end the presentation like VR is I mean I don't pretend to be first of all an expert on the are second of all nobody can pretend to be an expert in VR it's a very in essence new to and everybody's like experimenting some Goods some works are good some works are consequent some works are powerful but some work at total totally fellers so let's be honest about that so nobody can pretend to be like having the magical formula to do the best VR piece ever so but I think personally that is it's a tool that can really really we can really embrace the world in a totally different way if you go back a little bit in the history and you see like the the cinema that has been produced in the early 60 or 70 s by ojos for example in in Africa which is a very harnessed work he put in frame like the reality as it is from African living there but I think that approach has been always kind of through the ethnology approach we had always built these pictures of Africa through other people's eyes and VR is totally the opposite of that it's just you put a camera and you disappear you have a 360 degrees things happen you observe then you look like the footage you want to design it not or not is your choice but basically the act of filming VR or capturing 360 content is very easy it's very simple it's just you put the user in the center of something in that in that under this perspective I think it's very powerful anthropology tool because anthropologist based on observation so as simple as that thank you and I think I have the honor
for the last question okay finally you mentioned more modern arts or more modern let's say music projects what are your upcoming projects and what do you think is the technology like in 10 years for you lose so no you mean related to in related to your upcoming projects I still stuck in this project and I think basically we are far from the end product of output but I'm very happy to see that people engage with that I just came from another meeting I told you from publica in Africa and I realized that this project has identified two basically two two audiences first of all you have the African audiences which for them just to be in the ceremonies enough it's fantastic that freak artists exactly you know it's exactly what they they're looking for in terms of memory and displacement it's very enough and you have the VR audience people who would say okay what can I explain is here you know I see people dancing around me I listen to music cool I can dance but what I'm expecting and we are working on this part we want to make feel the user how this music and this power of music can can work on your conscience can work on your brain activity can engage you physically and this is how we are working now with weather music and code we coding music we analyzing the frequencies that producing through the combination of high frequencies and low frequencies and that creates a space of trends and of course you cannot push users directly into trends some people don't want this so so yes the next step will be to elaborate this interactive interactive ceremony so you can really go deeper we produce in CGI the more the chance will go the more you will see things happening the more they will visualize the memories the more you will see you know the the belief the the spirits or whatever and the more you will you will be really have you will have this feely physical experience of being in a ritual so this is the next step basically thank you very much thank you thank you lot a warm round of applause for sailing
thank you [Music] [Music]
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