ANIMAL: the Custom-Built Denim Car from South Africa

Custom Denim Car in South Africa

Custom Denim Car in South Africa

One of the most ambitions items at Maker Faire Africa this year in Johannesburg, South Africa is Samuel Ngobeni’s “art car”. He’s a designer from Germinston, who has spent the last three years building his ANIMAL car, from the ground up, that means the frame and all. It’s a work in progress, though starting in 2011, it’s not quite done yet.

The first thing you’ll notice about it is that it’s completely covered in denim. When I asked him why, he said, “because it’s tough and can withstand a lot of things like the sun and rain, like the cowboys, that’s why I chose it.”

Denim car

Animal

Samuel and his car

The engine

At first glance, from afar, it looks a bit like a BMW shape, but when you get close you can tell just how much customization and work went into it. Then, when he opens the hood and shows you underneath, you can see that he actually hand-built the whole thing with steel piping and sheet metal, by hand.

It’s running a 3 liter, straight 6 cylinder engine, has suicide doors and leather seats.

Samuel’s next big idea is to find a v8 or v12 engine, slap that inside a custom built 6-wheel vehicle (4 in front, 2 in back) and then skin it all in croc-skin. His denim ANIMAL is already pretty slick, so his next car can only get better, and it sounds like it’ll be a lot more powerful and meaner too!

A quick sketch of Samuel's next car

A quick sketch of Samuel’s next car

How You Can Help

It’s difficult for designers like Samuel to get far on their own. He’s looking for someone who can take him to the next level. We’re setting up an email address for him now, but you can reach him on WhatsApp at 0822 110122 for now.

Maker Faire Africa comes to Jo’Burg

Maker Faire Africa was first held in Ghana in 2009, then Kenya 2010, Egypt 2011, Nigeria 2012 and now in South Africa 2014. It’s been an amazing thing to be a part of, and the best is to be there and see the local ingenuity, the practical inventions that are made by some of the smartest and scrappiest people in Africa.

Maker Faire Africa 2014 - Johannesburg

Makers from across Africa will join ZA Makers for 4-days of meet-ups, mash-ups, workshops, and seed-starting ideas for new collaborations in open innovation across the continent.

When: Sept 3-6, 2014
Where: WITS (University of the Witwatersrand), exact location TBD
Who: You + all the other Makers, just sign up

Pop-up Maker Space at MFA

Maker Faire Africa 2014 will bring together over 5,000 attendees, along with featured inventors, world-class makers, self-made entrepreneurs & workshop experts from South Africa, across the continent, and around the world, to manufacture real solutions for some of Africa’s most pressing challenges & opportunities in the areas of agriculture, health, education, power, and more. Whether your interest lies in technology, engineering, science, humanities, design or fabrication, you’ll find the best grouping of enthusiastic hardware innovators at MFA 2014.

At the heart of the Maker Faire Africa Community experience is our Pop-Up Maker Space – facilitated through a collaboration between local hackerspaces & volunteers and visiting world-class makers. Open the full length of the faire, it caters to all ages, skill levels, and interests. Visitors can organize their own impromptu maker projects using available tools & supplies, attend demonstrations such as 3D-Printing Indigenous Patterns, Light Up Your Gele, or Strawberry DNA Extraction, or participate in supervised workshops such as Learn to Solder, Solar Energy for Personal Power, Microelectronics 101 or AfriRobotics for Beginners.

MFA is structured to encourage visitors to actively make, not just observe. We integrate students and professionals alongside informal inventors in a way not happening elsewhere across Africa.

Some school girl makers in Nigeria 2012

Some school girl makers in Nigeria 2012

Handmade hydraulic toys at MFA 2012 in Nigeria

Handmade hydraulic toys at MFA 2012 in Nigeria

“Solutions for Africa’s economic growth must emanate from Africa to be wholly understood and integrated. Maker Faire Africa has the potential to be the birth- place of African invention fundamental to the continent’s development… these are Africa’s unsung heroes, as it is their understanding of what is needed, rather than what is simply cool, that translates into the most valuable economic asset on the continent today.”
Deo Onyango, GE Commercial Development Director for East Africa

Handmade Fashion Glasses - MFA Kenya 2010

Handmade Fashion Glasses – MFA Kenya 2010

Open Mobile Consortium Launches at MobileActive ’08

Open Mobile Consortium - first meeting group at MobileActive '08
(Image by Tino Kreutzer)

One of the big initiatives that was just formed/announced at MobileActive ’08 was what we’re calling the “Open Mobile Consortium” (working name). This is a body much like the W3C, focused on bringing together groups working on initiatives in this space, formulating best practices and standards and generally working to bring this fragmented industry a little closer together.

We’ll see where this goes, but there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm and willingness to make something happen. On top of that, the organizations taking part carry a lot of weight. There were representatives from UNICEF, Shuttleworth Foundation, Tactical Tech, InSTEDD, Cell-Life, Ushahidi, UN Foundation, Open Rosa, Columbia University, and many more that I can’t remember.

Benevlolent Dictator of Open Mobile Consortium: Robert Kirkpatrick of InSTEDD

This is an open group, and there’s room for input from the private, academic and the non-profit sectors. Look for a website shortly, until then know that our benevolent leader, Robert Kirkpatrick of InSTEDD, or Peter Benjamin (secretariat) of Cell-Life.org will be handling the process going forward.

[Needless to say Ushahidi is a proud founding member of this group.]

Debates on the Mobile Web at MobileActive ’08

We just finished a really good conversation on the the future of the mobile web at MobileActive ’08. Toni Eliasz of Ungana Afrika moderated a discussion where one side of the room was charged with arguing against the mobile web, and the other half for the mobile web. I sat on the “for” side of the room.

MobileActive '08

My Position

The web is made up of data, and we generally think of it as what we access via the PC. However, that same data can be accessed and added to through mobile phones as well. Whether its basic SMS, Java apps or direct web browsing. Data is data – how you access is what matters.

Some of the issues holding back penetration of the mobile web:

  • Accessibility – though this gets better every year
  • Cost – The reason why you can’t directly compare interaction or development of apps and services that use the mobile phone to the PC is because of the cost associated with data and SMS costs on mobile right now.
  • Interface – usability can be a major problem on Java apps, and 160 characters is very limiting.

But the basic truth remains. If you can access and contribute to the global databases of content, then you are in fact on the mobile web.

The mobile web is already here. It’s happening now.

Mobile Web Questions

Mobile Web questions
The questions we debated.

Rabble’s and Blaine’s Positions

Rabble, creator of Yahoo’s Fire Eagle, and Blaine, the original architect of Twitter, continued the discussion with me afterward. The claim here is that the only truly mobile web device is the iPhone, all else is negligible – maybe not in theory, but in action.

Rabble explaining how we access the Mobile Web

Rabble tells me that it’s much like saying that if you could get the web through this blurry glass, even if it’s feasible, it’s not useful or likely. He’s got a good point…

[final note: I was preoccupied while trying to post this with Rabble and Blaines’ conversation…]

Bush-videostreaming at Barcamp Jozi

We had a great day 1 at Barcamp Jozi yesterday, and then a mad evening rushing around Johannesburg trying to find a good enough uplink connection to run the live streaming panel back to Barcamp Africa. We didn’t exactly succeed in live streaming, but the video will be uploaded shortly.

More importantly, we had an incredibly good time having the adventure, spending the evening having a conversation about mobile phones, the web and technology in Africa – all under the open skies of South Africa.

Panelists:

I can’t actually view the video, but if I could it would be at this link: Barcamp Jozi panel

Upcoming Technology Events Throughout Africa

I’m starting to compile a list of interesting technology events happening around the continent. If this ends up being useful, I’ll create a page to keep it updated. Let me know if you like it, or if there is someone already keeping a calender of sorts.

African Technology Events 2008

Upcoming events to watch (chronological):

West & Central Africom – “The premier meeting place for communications decision-makers to discuss the key issues facing the market.”
Dates: June 18-19, 2008
Location: Abuja Int’l Conference Center in Abuja, Nigeria

Barcamp Nairobi ’08 – A local “unconference” for Kenyan techies, web designers and bloggers. (disclosure: I’m part of this)
Dates: June 21, 2008
Location: Jacaranda Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya

APPFRICA – a new technology conference and thinktank.
Dates: July 31, 2008
Location: Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda

WordCamp SA – For all bloggers in and around South Africa.
Dates: August 23, 2008
Location: TBD, in Cape Town, South Africa

Barcamp Kampala – Another unconference pops up for Uganda – looking forward to hearing about this one.
Dates: August 29, 2008
Location: TBD, Kampala, Uganda

MobileActive ’08 – A conference on mobile technology for social impact.
Dates: October 13-15, 2008
Location: TBD in Johannesburg, South Africa

[If you have a good tech conference coming up, let me know.]