New web series Afripedia is a new five-part documentary series by Sweden’s Stocktown Films that focuses on creatives in Angola, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, and South Africa. Ayiba’s Akinyi Ochieng spoke to series director Senay Berthe about the genesis for the project and what’s on the horizon for 2015.
How did the idea for Afripedia develop?
The idea started out as a research project in 2008. We found that there was a huge lack of information on what was going on the independent creative scene in Africa. Together with our online community and magazine Stocktown.com, we collaborated on a common document of links, contacts, and information from various blogs, and later on went on a research trip to several countries to find more information and connect with creatives.
In 2010, we produced our first TV pilot from South Africa and met artists from the heavy metal scene to the street fashion of Soweto. After we put some online clips, the audience response was huge and it pushed us to continue our work to document the creative scene from Angola, Kenya, Senegal, and Ghana. It resulted in five episodes that we recently released titled Afripedia and we are now in the development stage of producing a feature documentary film.
Afripedia is both a documentary series and an online platform. During our research and our trips we meet so many inspiring and creative people that we couldn’t include in the series so the idea for the platform was born.
Stocktown Films is based in Sweden. How did you decide to create a project based on Africa?
Both me and Teddy Goitom have roots in Africa and are raised in Sweden. We created this project out of many reasons, one of them being the importance of role models. Growing up in the suburbs of Stockholm we never found any role models to identify us within the Swedish culture scene. Afripedia is a platform to highlight and showcase African creatives and hopefully create role models for the audience both on the continent and outside. We also find that there is a need to have more balanced view of Africa and change the narrative rather than just accepting a single story of war, famine, and diseases. Creativity has no borders and our common interest in culture is a key aspect for a deeper relation and to identify us with.
How did you stumble across the people currently featured on your website? You’ve got an amazing ensemble of folks – everyone from Angolan kuduro dancers to afrofuturists in Kenya.
Yes, some of them we stumbled across during our production, other ones we found through online research or via contacts and magazines that we have built a relationship with.
There are several things in common with the ones we choose to feature in the series, one is that there is a do-it-yourself attitude and many of the inspiring works of the individuals are influencing, challenging, and changing the perspective of how we see Africa and Africans.
What has the reception been like since you released the first set of videos?
We realize that we are one the right track because the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. This motivates us and pushes us further. We have been invited to participate in screenings, panels, seminaries, and we have done our first screening in Ethiopia, Africa. Hopefully the response will be the same when we release the feature film documentary that we are developing.
In the past, you’ve described the project like a “visual encyclopedia.” Do you think that Afripedia will always remain a free cultural resource or are there any plans to add an e-commerce element?
We want to create the most beautiful and intelligent resource platform for African creatives from all over the world. We see this as an on going project with no expiration date and we aim to make the platform self sufficient in the future. We hope that Afripedia will be a platform to meet, discover, get inspired, and where people can buy and sell services.
What’s next for the series in 2015?
We are currently producing a feature documentary that will be released in the fall of 2016. For the platform, which still is at an early stage, we are still looking for the right partners to collaborate with and funding to develop the platform.
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