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Cool Hunting Video: CH Edition Zambia 2014

We hosted another incredible safari, this time with a stronger focus on the Mfuwe community

by Cool Hunting Video in Travel on 02 October 2014

Africa, Animals, CH Edition, CHV, Mfuwe Lodge, Safari, Video, Zambia

After hosting our first successful Cool Hunting Edition trip to Africa in summer 2012, the CH team was eager to design another trip and revisit Zambia with a new group two years later. Embedded in the wilderness of South Luangwa National Park, our guests enjoyed safari excursions each day and returned to the luxurious accommodations of The Bushcamp Company by night. Similar to our last trip, we has the privilege of visiting some local businesses and residents. And this time around, we spent more time at a local Mfuwe Secondary School reconnecting with students we met previously and getting to know new ones. We're proud to have achieve another incredible experience and we look forward to hosting more CH Edition trips in the near future.

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Panoramic Sound Recording with Boom Boom

A new app for the device allows users to replicate exotic or ambient noise

by CH Contributor in Tech on 02 October 2014

Apps, Audio Recording, Binauric, Boom Boom, iOS apps, Audio Engineering, Portable, Speakers

by Laura Feinstein

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There are many ways to spin a good yarn. At this year’s Future of Storytelling Summit (FoST), a yearly meeting of the cross-disciplinary minds spanning tech, design, experiential and innovation, founder Charlie Melcher (of Melcher Media; Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" and last year's JJ Abrams interactive project) described it succinctly: “a great story has the ability to transport and transform.” For the first day of the festival—held on Snug Harbor, Staten Island—the story transported its illustrious guests and speakers, which included Dr. Rosalind Picard, Founder and Director of the Affective Computing Group at MIT Media Lab and Todd Yellin, VP of Product Innovation at Netflix (among many others) through an immersive medley of discussions, performances and virtual reality experiences.

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The commencement of FoTS also saw the introduction of Binauric's latest innovation, a unique, easy-to-use, app-driven recording device for their Boom Boom audio speaker that delivers professional-grade panoramic sound straight to smartphones. While there have been similar products in the past, none have been able to duplicate the subtle aural textures the way that Boom Boom has. It allows listeners to replicate exotic, or even mundane, ambient noise from the comforts of home—capable of revolutionizing radio and video journalism, in addition to allowing users to capture far-flung vacations.

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Boom Boom is the brainchild of Binauric, a French collective of sound engineers, production wizards and digital technologists. The speaker’s product design, a collaboration with designer Mathieu Lehanneur, was initially unveiled this past April at the Milan Design Fair. However, the revolutionary functions were kept under wraps until yesterday. “We wanted to launch it here [at FoST] because we believe that sound is instrumental to storytelling,” says digital strategist Gregory Pouy, one of the driving technical forces behind Boom Boom. “When we designed Boom Boom we wanted to create a unique experience for people in the digital world. The idea is that you can send an emotion—a moment with your kids, time with your family—anywhere. When you take a video, or a picture, the sound is lost—but that’s such an important aspect of an experience, and we wanted to save it.”

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Part of the success of Boom Boom’s product design has been its utilization of multiple recording devices, located within the cube and positioned to mimic the brain and inner ear’s ability to absorb sound. As a result, when you play back taped noise on your headphones it can feel like it’s actually playing inside your cranium. “We all come from professional radio background,” says CMO Pierre-Henri Samion. “We got together because we wanted to bring this one thing we know really well to everyday people. We think sound is very important in people’s lives and wanted to elevate recording quality to the next level. In 2014—it’s not stereo, it’s not mono—it’s immersive sound.”

The app isn’t available to download on iTunes until this November, but be sure to keep an eye on Binauric’s website for further announcements and more info.

Images courtesy of Boom Boom

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Guns & Rain Brings African Art to the World

Our interview with the equity-minded founder of the new commerce and development platform

by Hans Aschim in Culture on 01 October 2014

Africa, Art, MOAD, Emerging Artists, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Contemporary Art, Interviews

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Creativity exists throughout the world. Global centers like Paris, London and New York have long served as geographic and cultural gatekeepers for the fine art world, but the internet is gaining momentum on democratizing the international scope of contemporary art. In Africa, the newly minted Johannesburg-based arts commerce and development platform Guns & Rain is shedding new light on contemporary artists in the region as well as working to foster an appreciation for the field. Founder Julie Taylor—who holds a PhD in Development Studies from Oxford and logged time as Google's Head of Communications in Sub-Saharan Africa—says it isn't simply about selling and promoting the work of African artists; sustainability in the field requires increased access to technology and the internet. We caught up with Taylor as she traversed Namibia discovering new talent to learn more about her project.

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What inspired you to start Guns & Rain?

There are a couple of things. The seed was sewn actually quite some years ago in 2008 when I was working for Google in London—but I am originally from Zimbabwe. I went back to Zimbabwe and it was a difficult year politically. There were extreme shortages of all kinds—food, fuel, water. Along with political battles fought on all sides. I went to one of the contemporary art galleries and the gallerist told me there were artists coming in who hadn't eaten for three days. I was shocked. I said, "The internet can help you. These artists can reach a worldwide audience." Of course—like much of the fine art world is with its relationship with technology—he was dubious, but agreed to it. I took photographs, created a simple blog-style site and shared it with contacts around the world. That same evening three artworks sold.

Obviously that was a non-commercial effort. It was a pro bono initiative to try and help what was a very desperate situation. Still, the seed was sewn and I realized what the internet might be able to do for contemporary artists in Africa—and not just for in-crisis places like Zimbabwe, but for artists throughout the continent.

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Having spent nearly seven years at Google, I decided it was time for a change and to bring together my various interests. In addition to art, my interest is in anthropology and development studies. I have a PhD in development studies and Guns & Rain brings all those passions together.

Aside from my own reasons, there are a couple of global factors I would claim as influential. For a long time, contemporary African art has not been recognized by the global art community. Recently there has been an explosion in interest in African literature and I hope it's not a passing fad. Despite this interest, African artists are still globally under-represented on the world stage and online. Getting these artists online is key to achieving global exposure.

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Guns & Rain is one of the first African art portfolios on the Google Open Gallery. The interface is high-tech and the user experience is very sleek. The zoom function is really great for exploring pieces. It's still under development, but it's a parallel platform via which people can engage with the art.

Africa is a massive and diverse content. Are you focusing your efforts geographically?

At the moment I'm focusing just on Southern Africa. I plan to expand to East and West Africa in the future. It is a huge continent, it's 54 countries. There's a huge amount of talent, but what I think is noticeable is that Africa has lost significant artists to other parts of the world. Ghana's El Anatsui has become a global star. There's talent, but like so many industries in Africa, there's this trend or danger of brain drain. I think it will be tremendous if we can try to change that by retaining our own artists and keeping them involved in art in the continent. I think that there is a bit of a pattern that is mirrored in other industries, not just the arts.

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There's also a degree of fragmentation, because there are so many different countries. There's not enough of a sense of groups of countries joining together to demonstrate the huge creative talents that the continent has. That said, there is the Dakar Biennial, so there are these events that are fantastic, but I think there could be more. I am excited to see such interest beginning to take hold. Paddle8 just had their first contemporary African art auction in June. The traditional auction houses have also had success. Also 1-54—which is the new London-based contemporary African art fair—will be running for the second time this October. Nonetheless there is a huge amount of artists who aren't getting the attention they deserve.

Has the art community in Southern Africa been receptive so far?

Within South Africa the response has been rather positive. There is a recognition within the visual arts industry that they haven't engaged enough with the web. The internet infrastructure is still lacking in much of Africa. So first there are a lot of questions such as: how do we improve internet access? How do we get more African content online? In general, Africans do not have the same level of access at the same affordable price as those in Europe and North America. The infrastructure simply isn't there yet. This lack of equitable pricing, access and general digital knowledge has meant that there's an overall dearth of engagement with the web on behalf of the visual arts community.

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Engaging online with technology is going to help establish African creative voices in not only new ways, but in much more democratic ways.
What does the future hold for contemporary art in Southern Africa?

It depends in a way on the extent to which they proactively engage with the global interest that they're receiving at the moment. I think there's an opportunity right now not only for visual arts, but for different parts of life and work in Africa to tell African stories in new ways and in much more positive ways. For a long time Africa has been branded as a failed or hopeless continent, and I think that's changing. Plus, there's never been one narrative. The internet is helping Africans tell stories in new ways in their own words. Today, Africans have much more ownership and agency in the narratives around the continent than even five years ago. I see the future as bright. I think engaging online with technology is going to help establish African creative voices in not only new ways, but in much more democratic ways.

Access to the internet and technology appears to be essential to the arts flourishing, especially in the global context.

For me that is key. I think it's key to a number of different industries, not just the arts, but I think it can help the arts enormously. It's not just a question of access, but whether or not individuals can be proactive. People have to be open-minded to technology if they're going to harness it—that's a challenge. People can be stuck in the old way of approaching things. So it's essential to encourage risk-taking and open-mindedness in these new approaches.

This tendency toward the old ways is seen in the arts in the US and Europe as well. Among the more traditional institutions there is unease about going online and digital and what it means for fine art as a whole. Of course, there are always going to be certain drawbacks online—engaging with a piece of art is a tactile experience.

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What's the next step for Guns & Rain?

There are a couple of things in the pipeline. I'm just kind of in the process of developing my approach. I will certainly be combining the online platform with offline events. To me what's important is a more informal, but equally educational view of art. I think audience development is a challenge all countries face. In Southern Africa there is not a lot of money invested in art education in school. In part because of that, there's not a huge awareness of understanding about fine art and the role it plays in a society. Going to a gallery or museum is not something most people have been familiar with growing up. So then the prospect of them becoming an art collector or appreciating fine art is less likely. We have to change that in order to sustain artists' careers.

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It's important to provide forums for young potential collectors—informal educational forums for them to learn about contemporary art that's not in a museum setting. Pop-up events have proven to be more popular, more accessible and less intimidating. So we're working toward initiatives along those lines. This is all in line with my approach to improving accessibility around technology and the internet.

This idea of audience development is a big problem in South Africa. The arts scene in South Africa and Zimbabwe has changed over time because of it. This demographic gets whittled away over time and once you lose those audiences, it's even more difficult to rally support for arts education and funding. We need to look 10, 20 years down the line and anticipate it. Still, this is not just an African problem. I'm sure it's a problem in the US, but I do especially notice it in the Southern African countries.

Guns & Rain currently features the art of 10 contemporary Southern African artists, all of which is available for sale online. More artists are added regularly with off-line events in the works over the coming months.

Images courtesy of Guns & Rain and their respective artist

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