‘Digital Lab Africa supports creatives who are pushing the limits of digital expression’
Eduardo Cachucho is a programme manager and artist, having worked in the arts sector for over a decade.
A graduate of Architecture from WITS University and Fine Arts from Dutch Art Institute, he specialises in the delivery of digital programmes and digital art across the countries of Africa and helps deliver large international open calls, opening up opportunities for creatives to collaborate across the world. He has delivered projects for the British Council, South African Institute of Architects, Moscow Biennale, Fondazione Pistolletto, Fondazione Zegna among others.
In this interview, he spoke on how Digital Lab Africa is helping creatives develop and incubate their cutting edge ideas in the digital space.
You trained as an architect and artist. How has the experience been working in the creative industry?
I AM a creative producer working in the cultural sector for over a decade. Having studied first as an architect (WITS University, South Africa), then in fine arts (Dutch Art Institute, Netherlands), I like to approach my programmatic work with an analytical and systematic approach, while keeping in mind that creative and artistic approaches are almost always what differentiates projects from others.
Having practised, and also still considering myself foremost as an artist, I see my work in the cultural sector as being an enabler for other artists to be able to create the best version of their work and their lives. I believe that this is a vital element of the economy of Africa that each of its countries should be investing in more directly.
Our futures will see ever-increasing automation in every part of our lives, but the one element that cannot be replaced by this automation is creativity: the designing of games, creating stories that impact us, that change our societies for the better, that allow us to think of ourselves in anew, live in new ways. This combined with a deep knowledge base that we have to offer in the countries of Africa means that we have only begun to scratch the surface of what we are able to offer the world in music, film, visual art, video games, animation, AR, VR and forms yet to be invented.
As the Programme Manager for Digital Lab Africa (DLA), how did you come about this initiative?
The Digital Lab Africa is a project initiated by the French Embassy and French Institute in South Africa in 2016 and is now joined by our funding partners the AFD (Agence française de développement), as well as the French Embassy in Nigeria.
Having led other large open-call based projects in Africa focusing on digital creativity, being the Digital Lab Africa programme manager was an exciting proposition for me in being able to develop the programme into the future in order to support creatives who are pushing the limits of digital expression.
Beyond supporting creatives who are pushing the limits of digital expression, what exactly do you intend to achieve with this initiative?
The DLA looks to offer the selected creatives a supportive structure in which their projects can develop at an accelerated pace. We do this by coordinating workshops, masterclasses, mentorships, residency and showcase moments with a variety of partners from the countries of Africa, France and the world.
By accelerating these projects, we help to create opportunities for these creatives to pitch their works at industry events, which can open up doors to further studies, collaborations, and ultimately production support that can see these ambitious projects become a reality.
How long has this initiative been running for and how many innovators have been impacted so far?
Now in its fifth year, the DLA has supported 48 creatives from 18 countries to develop and incubate their cutting edge ideas in the digital creative space. These creatives have worked in various forms from visual art, music, expanded web, XR, video games, to animation over the last five years.
Are there any other projects DLA Is involved in?
DLA is a programme under the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct, which is currently celebrating its 5th year anniversary. DLA will be showcasing its seven 2021 winners, as well as the Fak’ugesi Festival alumni showcase.
We are also very excited to showcase our current and alumni video game winners at Africa Games Week in Cape Town (from December 8 to 9). The event is the largest of its kind on the continent and will see a major convergence of industry specialists, including Nigeria’s Hugo Obi, who is one of the keynote speakers, and was also our video game juror and guest speaker for our DLA winner announcement.
For those who may be interested in the programme, when is the next DLA application and what sectors will you be focusing on this time?
Our next DLA call will open in February 2022 and will focus on three key areas: animation, XR and video games. Our open calls are always free to apply to and we engage respected industry professionals as the jury each year.
Any word for African innovators who are reading this and will be interested in being a part of this programme?
If you’re reading this now and think that you’d like to apply, start developing and refining your project now, our winning projects almost always have strongly developed ideas with at least partially developed concepts that catch the jury’s eye and intrigue them to see more. Applications open in early February 2022 and close 28 days later, so now is your chance to start thinking about how you’ll share your idea with Digital Lab Africa for incubation.