Postafrican metaculture exchange: developing future innovation of African digital arts for a virtual era within the Newtown cultural precinct

Latouf, Brian
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Human existence is rapidly becoming digitalised - code and computers are ubiquitous in our everyday lives. Digital and virtual technologies are redefining how we work, live and, more specifically, create. With exponential global growth of digital art, culture and entertainment industries - Africa is being left behind. The continent’s inability to take advantage of the industry’s tremendous potential results from unequal access to technology and a lack of infrastructure. For Johannesburg to benefit from the socio-economic benefits of African representation in the digital creative realm, its residents need to be empowered and provided with the necessary tools to capitalise on the digital “renaissance”. Johannesburg has an extensive history of disconnection, whether through apartheid spatial planning, segregation, discrimination, or the current inequality, poverty, and lacklustre infrastructure. This project seeks to rectify some of the injustices of the past by establishing a centre for developing and innovating the future of Africa’s vibrant and diverse creative communities - and connecting them to the world. Newtown is Johannesburg’s proclaimed cultural precinct and has long been an epicentre for traditional arts, culture, and entertainment. It has a history of both extreme exclusion as well as unparalleled inclusion. In recent years, however, Newtown has been undergoing an identity crisis and losing its grip on its cultural importance. These conditions place the aspiring cultural precinct as the prime location for the PostAfrican MetaCultural Exchange; which aims to redefine arts, culture, and entertainment in the digital era while bringing purpose back to the cultural precinct in reaching its goals of being at the forefront of Africa’s creative industry. The program will occupy and extend the Old Park Station in Newtown and reinforces the ambition of connecting the city to the digital future. The centre intends to develop creative industries by empowering the public by providing equal access to necessary infrastructure, education and skills development, and also inspiring them with creative spaces for immersive and interactive showcases of the creative digital works by African talent. Overall, this research aims to identify the importance of taking advantage of the digital revolution and the potential for positive socio-economic and socio-cultural benefits that African representation in the creative industry may bring to the city. It seeks to uncover and mend the disconnection of the past and present by empowering future innovation in an inspiring space that enables African art, culture, and entertainment to thrive.
A dissertation submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Architecture (Professional) to the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, School of Architecture and Planning, University of the Witwatersrand, 2022