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A School for Vernacular Algorithms

More information coming … please feel free to contact me directly if you would like more information on the development of this work and the community around it. 

In an investigation that started in 2018 with research into pre-colonial technology culture and taking my students into the Wits Art Museum to interrogate fractal mathematics in historical African artworks and artefacts, ‘A Vocabulary for Vernacular Algorithms’ (2018 – today) was born.  An entry investigation, asking philosophical and practical questions to egalitarian systems thinking in traditional African cultural practices. And a practical focus on what can be learned from African beadwork and palm / grass weaving practices in Southern Africa.

Beadwork by Philisiwe Dube

In the frame of ‘A Vocabulary for Vernacular Algorithms’  I ran a series of workshops in intermittent collaboration with Alex Coehlo (MZ) and Russel Hlongwane (ZA). The workshops took place in multiple communities in South Africa, Senegal, Morocco and even Germany, and were aimed at understanding communally the potential for an intergenerational practice (like beadwork) to not only interrogate the contemporary algorithmic thinking, but further build a bridge to learning the principles of computer coding.

Beadwork to Code – interactive installation by Tegan Bristow

In 2020, ‘A School for Vernacular Algorithms’ (2020 – today) was formed by invitation from French / Senegalese digital arts and culture curator Oulimata Gueye.  The school offered a three part interrogation of algorythimic thinking in Southern African cultural practices – rythem, beadwork and creative coding – led by me on the principles developed in the ‘Vocabulary for Vernacular Algorithms’ in collaboration with Nhlanhla Mthlangu, Philisiwe Dube, Laurent Malys.

Nhlanhla Mthlangu

Tegan Bristow

Philisiwe Dube