The Porlwi by Nature festival, which took place from 29 November to 3 December 2017, reminded us of the importance of respecting Nature, even in the city, through numerous artistic projects. Scintilla was one of them, making us rediscover the Way milky way through art and technology.
Every evening during the festival, crowds flocked to enter the Citadel of Port-Louis, bathed in enchanting music and illuminated by a multitude of Solar Jar. The curious were quick to discover another attraction, at the back of the citadel, in a remote room.
This room housed a swing surrounded by wires of light that came down from the ceiling. Here again, background music accompanied the discovery of the place. As I moved the swing, each ray of light shone brightly…Welcome to Scintilla!
“The more we interact with the place, the more the light intensity increases. It’s a metaphor for the interactions we can have with Nature,” explain Olfa Fdhila and Tolotra Samuel, both active members of the project and electronics students at African Leadership University (ALU).
It is through their stories that I understand the magnitude of this project and the work done. Scintilla is not a simple room illuminated by a fiber optic installation. Scintilla mixes art and electronics to recreate a starry night and thus raise awareness of the importance of Nature and our interactions with it.
Bringing an artistic vision to life through a technological installation
At first it is bad luck that puts Scintilla in the path of the two students. While they were about to do an internship in Italy, administrative problems forced them to change their plans and stay in Mauritius.
Their initial misfortune soon turns into an opportunity when they meet Shesley Crustna, an artist already working on Scintilla. He offers them to join him on the technical side of this artistic project. Olfa and Tolotra then embarked on a real research project, to bring the artist’s vision to life through a technological and interactive installation for the public. They chose fiber optics to represent the starry sky and ultrasonic sensors to connect the light sources to the visitors’ movements.
“For us, this project was a great technical challenge,” Olfa and Tolotra tell me.
It took a lot of lab tests, a lot of mistakes and a lot of questioning for the two students to determine the appropriate materials to connect the light intensity to the audience interactions.
Trying, making mistakes, questioning, taking a step back… Nothing new for the two students of ALU, an extraordinary university that trains the African leaders of tomorrow through pedagogies that encourage the spirit of enterprise and self-knowledge. Entrepreneurship is what Olfa and Tolotra did when they took an artistic idea and turned it into a reality from start to finish. Together, they took on the challenge of using technology to bring people together, raise awareness of environmental issues and get them to interact. And given the enthusiasm of the public at the Citadelle, they may well want to do it again soon!