Ron Eglash On African Fractals

“Afraca” by Vic Showell


From Science Daily

Fractals Provide Unusual Theme In Much African Culture And Art (July 27, 1999) — COLUMBUS, Ohio — In everything from braided hairstyles to the design of housing settlements, the geometric structures known as fractals permeate African culture.

In a new book, an Ohio State University scholar examines the unlikely pairing of this mathematical concept and the culture and art of Africa.

He began this research in the 1980s when he noticed the striking fractal patterns in aerial photos of African settlements: circles of circular houses, rectangles inside rectangles, and streets branching like trees. Eglash confirmed his visual intuition by calculating the geometry of the arrangements in the photos — they were indeed fractal.

At first he thought that only unconscious social dynamics were responsible. Later, however, he received a Fulbright grant for field work in west and central Africa, and found during his travels that fractals were a deliberate part of many African cultures’ artistic expressions and counting systems, too.


TED Talks

Ron Eglash on African Fractals


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