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It’s All Done with Computers: Why African Artists are Embracing Digital Art Software

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Here’s how African artists are harnessing the future.

Modern technology is something that nobody can escape, whether you want to or not. However, it is not something to be afraid of but rather embrace, just as African artists are doing now. This foray into digital African art styles is not something new, but there is a reason behind it which the world needs to pay attention to.


It can make the real world a better place

Using technology such as digital art software allows African artists to put ‘institutional’ art world in a very uncomfortable place, as many artists who use digital art software are outside of the norm. This is because it is a relatively new sector of what is a classically ‘Western’ industry.

Artists who previously did not have an audience for their work can use digital art software and the internet to gain a following and build a career out of their passion, much like the artists showcased by the One Source Live campaign. Technology allows African artists to show the world that the continent is not simply a ‘dark’ place but is one that is embracing and understanding technology and its many perks.

It allows them to find (and raise) their voices

Digital art software has allowed African artists such as Osborne Macharia and Fabrice Monteiro to voice their opinions, and it has enabled them to share these with the world at large. They can also use the software to try out different art styles and find their niche.

Art created with digital art software is considered to be part of the ‘new media arts’ movement and it is this movement which has empowered African artists such as Macharia and Monteiro, as well as others in African countries where self-expression was previously very limited. With digital software and the internet, these young African artists are able to sell their work online to an international audience. They are spreading their messages digitally, allowing other countries to take note of the new wave of African art styles.

They do not need to hire a studio space

Saving money by not renting a studio space may seem a more practical reason for using digital art software, but it is one that many African artists need to consider in some of the more developing countries on the continent.

Being able to create their art remotely from the comfort of their own homes or internet cafes means that their creative process is not interrupted by outside noise. Many African artists enjoy the mobility of digital art and the newness of it, and the fact that there are no ‘rules’ you need to follow when creating with it. This means that they are able to create art in any space they prefer because digital art software needs only an internet connection, a computer and imagination.

Digital art subverts traditional views

Digital art is something that many non-African countries see as a ‘Western’ invention or tool, and by using this to create their work. African artists are subverting the views of the Western world on who ‘can’ use digital art software.

African artists can create images that reflect the issues in their countries by editing photographs or by making digital paintings. They can be as traditional or as subversive as they want by using the software, and many African artists are using programs to help them create fantastical universes in the Afrofuturism vein. It is these fantastical images that the world is taking notice of, and art connoisseurs are waking up to the fact that African art is no longer simply tribal masks in museums and tourist trinkets on the roadside.

It shows that Africa is more than one identity

African artists have long been frustrated with how the Internet and books portray African art. If you search online using the phrase ‘African art’ you will most likely find images of tribal art or beadwork, but contemporary artists on the continent are striving to show the world a different picture.

In terms of digital media, Africa is seen as one ‘identity’, but by using digital art software and creating images that can easily be loaded up online, African artists are showing the rest of the world that Africa is a uniquely diverse continent. Technology has affected each African country in different ways, and so the world cannot only use South Africa, Kenya or Nigeria as examples. This is remedied by the digital art that is seen in countries such as Ghana and Ethiopia and countries that are often overlooked by the Western art world.

Digital art software may be a new innovation, but the use of technology in African art styles is not. African artists are embracing digital art software because it is enabling them to find and hone their voices and spread their art to the world. They are able to work remotely, which saves them no studio rent costs and allows them to focus on creating their work. It allows them to subvert traditional views of African artists, and now the popularity of modern African art is growing steadily across the globe.

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