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  • Writer's pictureThuthukani "TK" Ndlovu

Giving Poetry Wings - From SA to the UK

// When digital artists and poets create synergies through Augmented Reality, there is no telling how high or how far poems can fly //

Wassup wassup fam. I hope that you have all been well, and I know we've been quiet for too long, but we're back. We're back with so much good news to share with you based on what we've achieved lately, as well as some of our plans for the remainder of the year and the year 2020. So, I'ma get straight into one of our major highlights for the year, and that's based on one of our very own initiatives "Giving Poetry Wings". We hosted the second edition this year at the National Arts festival in Makhanda, South Africa (thanks to the #Creativate Digital Art Festival & Lauren Fletcher), and we've been amazed by how the collective work produced by the participants has traveled (and is currently being exhibited at the Brighton Digital Festival in the UK).

Giving Poetry Wings - GPW is one of our favorite initiatives. It’s an augmented reality/digital exhibition which showcases collaborative work between selected poets and digital artists (and this year, The Radioactive Blog worked with artists from South Africa and Zimbabwe). The end product of this year’s edition was a collection of 10 Augmented Reality (AR) Artworks that allow viewers to see an alternative/ complementary version of the poem that inspired the artwork, or the artwork that inspired the poem. Some of the artworks have poems that viewers can listen to through the Artivive App. For the first exhibition this year, the artworks were accompanied by the poems (as shown below), which gave viewers a chance to read the poem next to the paired artwork. This was primarily because not all the artworks had a poem pre-recorded to be played when viewers used the AR app. None the less, the AR component still provided an alternative experience that viewers could enjoy.

The first edition of GPW was also held at the same festival last year, but did not feature the AR component. Now it's important to note that, these GPW exhibitions are the result of a hackathon - workshops that the selected artists attended prior to the first exhibition, with the aim of creating a space and opportunity for poets to have their work developed beyond paper/ spoken word, as well as for digital artists to create new themed work inspired by literature. 9 Artists were selected this year to take part in the 2nd edition of Giving Poetry Wings, of which the workshops took place from the 24th to the 27th of June 2019 in Makhanda. The first exhibition was then held from the 28th to the 7th of July - throughout the National Arts festival. The selected artists (pictured below) consisted of 5 poets & 5 Digital artists: The poets were Xabiso Vili, Lungile Sojini, Oratile Molale, Andy Tudhope & Thuthukani Ndlovu (me); The digital artists were Dananayi Muwanigwa (From Zimbabwe), Leigh Le Roux, Keneilwe Kwanaite, Rat Western & Kushinga Pfende.

I facilitated these workshops, and this year, I decided to challenge the digital artists with not just creating digital artworks, but using AR to compliment or link the poem to the artwork. One of the key objectives of GPW is to create an atmosphere and opportunity for artists to not just create work together, but to find synergy between their respective disciplines when they collaborate. With this being said, The Radioactive Blog appreciates the continued support from the Creativate Digital Arts Festival , which runs under the National Arts Festival in South Africa (in Makhanda – formerly known as Grahamstown), especially because they supported us for the second year in a row. The digital artists were challenged to make use of any existing Augmented Reality tools, and the tool which they used was Artivive. This is a free and easy to use app that you can download from Google Play/ App store in order to view the AR Artworks. Please note that all the Artworks in this article have an Augmented Reality feature, so you can scan the pictures using the app. Should you come across the artworks at any exhibition / in public, you will still be able to also scan the picture with the same application. You will also notice the Artivive icon/ guidelines at any of Giving Poetry Wings exhibitions.

After the inaugural exhibition which took place in Makhanda at the National Arts festival, 5 out of the 10 artworks created were then selected to be exhibited at Fak'ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival [in Johannesburg, South Africa]. This exhibition ran concurrently with the festival from the 30th of August to the 8th of September 2019. We would like to thank Dr Tegan Bristow (the director of the festival) & her amazing team for making this happen - the artworks (pictured below) were printed on banners and exhibited at the Tshimologong Precinct, which was one of the festival venues. What was also great about this festival was that, one of the GPW participants (Leigh) won a competition to design the official Fak'ugesi poster for this year, and he teamed up with Emmah Mabye (She wrote a poem based on the theme of the festival which people could then listen to when they scanned the festival poster with the Artivive App). I really had a great time at the festival and learnt a lot, but I will share my full experience on the workshop I hosted and the events I attended in a separate article.

The 5 artworks that were selected to be exhibited at Fak'ugesi were as follows:

  • Poseidon’s Daughter (AR artwork by Dananayi Muwanigwa; Poem by Xabiso Vili)

  • Iris (AR artwork by Dananayi Muwanigwa; Poem by Xabiso Vili)

  • Tumi (AR artwork by Leigh Le Roux; Poem by Oratile “Brithan” Molale)

  • Cycles (AR artwork by Leigh Le Roux; Poem by Oratile “Braithan” Molale)

  • All she knows ((AR artwork by Keneilwe Kwanaite; Poem by Thuthukani Ndlovu)

Moving on to the 3rd Giving Poetry Wings exhibition for the year, which is currently taking place at Brighton Digital Festival in the UK, I must say that I'm really grateful for this opportunity as well. All the artworks created at Giving Poetry Wings 2, and 7 of the artworks created at the first edition of Giving Poetry Wings in 2018 are being exhibited at this festival at the Jubilee Library & at Afro Hair Academy. This has been made possible through the sponsorship of Brandwatch, the support of Arts Council England and Brighton Digital Festival , as well as Jenni Lewin-Turner (Urban Flo Creative and NeXus). You can find more information here. The beautiful thing about these artworks is that they can travel in the absence of their creators/ curators, so not only can people from around the world see the artworks, but they can also listen to some of the poems that compliment the artworks through AR, in our absence. One of the interesting outcomes & benefits of GPW is that it provides an opportunity for the Digital Art audience to engage with poetry, and can also inspire the Poetry audience to attend the digital art exhibition/s in order to read or listen to the poetry as well. Here are a few naps that Jenni has taken at the UK Exhibition:

Alright, now I know this has been a mouthful, but like I said, a lot of great things have been happening, and now, we want to give you the chance to also experience the GPW artworks for yourself. Yes, so all you gotta do is download the Artivive App (Which is free on Google Play), and you can scan the following artworks so that you can see the AR behind each artwork, as well as some of the poetry that inspired some of the artworks. The Artivive App allowed these artists to create new dimensions of art by linking poetry with digital art, and the digital layer opens the doors to a whole new world of possibilities. Each artwork has it's own journey/story, and this can be unlocked by using your smartphone or tablet which then enables you to be part of the extended and emotional experience. Don't hesitate to share your feedback with us in the comment section or on our social media platforms. We'd love to hear from you.

Please note that we will be publishing a free digital magazine that will feature the artworks, poems and biographies of all the participants who took part inf GPW this year, and you will be able to access this file here (link will be made available soon). [From left to Right: Tumi - AR Artwork designed by Leigh Le Roux. Poem by Oratile Molale // Poseidons daughter - AR Artwork designed by Dananayi Muwanigwa. Poem by Xabiso Vili // All she knows - AR Artwork by Keneilwe Kwanaite. Poem by Thuthukani Ndlovu // Cycles - AR Artwork designed by Leigh Le Roux. Poem by Oratile Molale // Her name is Faya - AR Artwork by Keneilwe Kwanaite. Poem by Thuthukani Ndlovu // Iris - AR Artwork designed by Dananayi Muwanigwa. Poem by Xabiso Vili]

[Top Left: Fired Up by Rat Western & Lungile Sojini // Top Right: Mandala by Kushinga Pfende & Andy Tudhope // Bottom Left: Breathe by Kushinga Pfende & Andy Tudhope // Bottom Right: Hey you water by Rat Western & Lungile Sojini]

And that's about it for now. We've come to the end of this article, & we hope that you enjoyed the AR experience that each of these artworks offered. You'll be able to find more information about the artists via the app while scanning the artworks, so do feel free to also share the links/ videos with other people. We love to hear your feedback, so leave a comment behind and let us know which artworks you liked. Also be on the lookout for a Giving Poetry exhibition that might take place near you (and if you know potential opportunities where we can exhibit these artworks, do feel free to also let us know). We already can't wait for the 3rd edition of Giving Poetry Wings which we plan on hosting next year, so be on the look out for the call for applications. With all this being said, stay blessed and peace out fam. Don't forget to follow us on the socials (The Radioactive Blog on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. One Love. @2tukani


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