“Self-styling Locality in “Cryptic: a Traveller’s Diary”” presented by Petty

  • ©ISEA2008: 14th International Symposium on Electronic Art, Dr. Sheila Petty, Self-styling Locality in “Cryptic: a Traveller’s Diary”
  • ©ISEA2008: 14th International Symposium on Electronic Art, Dr. Sheila Petty, Self-styling Locality in “Cryptic: a Traveller’s Diary”


Session Title:

  • Technological Mediations of Identity

Presentation Title:

  • Self-styling Locality in “Cryptic: a Traveller’s Diary”




  • Almost from the first media product created by sub-Saharan African media artists, theories of identity have relied on a narrative of liberation built around the dual temporality of a glorious ‘albeit fallen’ past (tradition) and a redeemed future promised by Independence from colonial rule (Mbembe 2002). Operating the center of these constructs was a struggle to reclaim an authentic African self from a colonial legacy that dehumanized and denigrated black African culture. However, as the redemption promised by Independence failed to materialize and globalization grew in influence, the old boundaries of locality and race as markers of authentic Africanness appear to have been destabilized. Instead, ‘African imaginations of self’ are now moving beyond the restrictions of ‘race and geography’ to propose new models of identity that posit self as ‘born out of disparate but often intersecting practices’ which ‘open the way for self-styling’. Self, therefore, becomes a temporal condition that transcends geography, created by moving forward in time and repeatedly challenged and changed by traversing flows of personal, local and global histories.

    By drawing referents from both local and global sources, many sub-Saharan digital artworks challenge static modalities of self and locality in favor of open-ended self-stylings that view identity as a process of becoming. Given this context, this paper will explore the narrative and aesthetic structure of Ingrid Mwangi/Robert Hutter’s digital artwork, Cryptic: a Traveller’s Diary (2007). Dedicated to surmounting difference in its many forms, the collective comprised by IngridMwangi/RobertHutter brings together artistic expressions that bridge racial and geographical boundaries by merging Kenyan and German perspectives. “Cryptic: a Traveller’s Diary” evidences this afilliative process by digitally combining landscapes of Nairobi, Tokyo, Heights of Aripo in Trinidad, Western Desert of Egypt and Dakar into an imaginary locale that questions how journey and intersecting histories affect identity.

PDF Document: