As human beings, we all have a yearning to step into a different reality once in a while. There is a collective longing for an escape from all the pressures and quotidian burdens that overwhelm our very being. Virtual and augmented realities offer some form of respite by allowing us to experience an enhanced version of reality and imagine empowering possibilities for our society.

Virtual and augmented reality technologies offer heightened experiences of our reality. With virtual reality, the user is fully immersed in an artificial environment by way of VR headsets and hand controls. Some VR experiences allow you to move and participate in the virtual environment. Augmented reality enhances the real world by embedding it within a virtual environment. The user participates in the real world with added digital content; an example of this experience was Pokémon Go.



Virtual and augmented realities are changing the face of many industries such as gaming, film, retail and education and training. SenseVirtual—a South African company that uses VR and AR to create solutions for their clients—went to New York and San Francisco last year to check out the VR and AR scene there; these were some of their key takeaways:

  • All major companies in the US acknowledge that VR & AR will drastically affect education and training in a truly huge and disruptive way in the years to come.
  • Most US companies have departments focused on VR & AR development. These focuses span from internal training to using VR & AR as a great driver for customer engagement and sales.
  • VR & AR will continue to permeate the enterprise.

According to SenseVirtual, AR and VR are needed in South Africa to propel innovation forward. This is particularly important to note since we are moving towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


Virtual Reality and African Visual Storytelling

In the context of Africa, virtual reality plays an important role in helping us to re-imagine the past, present and future of African societies. They enable us to bring to life our dreams and visions for the future of our societies and enable us to imagine a myriad of possibilities for our present. These modalities make the impossible possible and the unseen seen. In awe-inspiring ways, they empower and encourage us to believe in better ways of existing.

African filmmakers have used virtual and augmented realities to create transcendental cinematic experiences. Three virtual reality films from Kenya, Ghana and Senegal were part of the New Dimensions exhibition presented by Electric South and the Goethe-Institut last year. The three films were Let This Be A Warning by The Nest Collective; The Other Dakar by Selly Raby Kane; and Nairobi Berries by Ng’endo Mukii.

The Nest Collective, Selly Raby and Ng’endo are some of the pioneers of virtual reality in Africa, using it to explore complex narratives.




Moma (Museum of Modern Art) in New York recently used virtual reality to exhibit the works Bodys Isek Kingelez, a Congolese visual storyteller who used art as a way to explore a more empowering narrative of his hometown, Kinshasa According to Moma “Kingelez’s vibrant, ambitious sculptures are created from an incredible range of everyday materials and found objects—coloured paper, commercial packaging, plastic, soda cans, and bottle caps—all meticulously repurposed and arranged.” The interactive virtual reality exhibition enabled visitors to explore Ville Fantome, one of Kingelez’s large-scale city sculptures. 





“Without a model, you are nowhere. A nation that can’t make models is a nation that doesn’t understand things, a nation that doesn’t live” – Bodys Isek Kingelez (1948–2015).


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