I was first introduced to the Deep Learning Indaba in 2018. At the start of this year, I had quite literally packed my bags and left a career in Physiotherapy to start from scratch in Cape Town, South Africa. Prior to this, I’d been working as a clinical physiotherapist at the Tembisa Provincial Tertiary Hospital and honestly thought that neural networks had something to do with syncing human brain waves. However, this year marked a new beginning: starting with my joining the open-minded Biomedical Engineering Research Group at Stellenbosch University and culminating with invitations to join the community at the Indaba𝕏SA and the Deep Learning Indaba. These pivotal moments have fundamentally changed the trajectory of my studies, my career, my life and importantly, my hopes and dreams.

In trying to sum up what the Indaba means to me, or capture even an ounce of the Indaba spirit, I fear that my words will be insufficient. However, I’m going to give it my best go below.

To me, the Indaba is friendship. I have met the most exceptional people through the Indaba whether it has been through chance exchanges on Twitter, shy conversations over tea and dinner, or the opportunities to volunteer alongside passionate people. I will always marvel at how lucky I am to have met so many wonderful people.

To me, the Indaba is experience. My horizons are ever expanding through innumerable Indaba experiences. One of the experiences I value the most, is the opportunity to explore more of the countries within the African continent than I would ever be able to do on my own. I count myself as extremely fortunate to experience new cultures, languages, and history. These experiences will remain at the core  of so many wonderful and cherished memories.

To me, the Indaba is inspiration. There is nothing quite like the renewed sense of energy and purpose that comes from engaging with the Indaba’s community. This energy streams from all Indaba activities: the annual Indaba, IndabaX’s, and even the online meetings. This invigorating energy spills over into all other aspects of my life, carrying me forward.

To me, the Indaba is opportunity. Most importantly, the Indaba presents the opportunity to be a part of all that I have mentioned above. The Indaba also presents an opportunity for learning and personal growth. The talks, practicals and theoretical content channelled through the Indaba have been foundational to my learning. This learning has given me the opportunity to pursue a passion in work I never even knew possible. These opportunities are gifts I will cherish forever.

(I can also confirm I have since learnt that an [artificial] neural network can be thought of as a mini model of the mind, just not quite in the way I initially imagined)

Growing up in South Africa, I was familiar with the philosophy of Ubuntu. Through the Indaba, however, I believe I have learnt to live it. To me, the Indaba and its community are the perfect embodiment of familyhood and unity. In meeting so many people from different African countries, I have come to learn that, while this philosophy is called something slightly different depending on where you are, the same magic is channelled and it is an immensely powerful force for driving change.

I am because we are, and that is why the Indaba means so much to me.

-Siobhan Mackenzie Hall, Editor of Sauti Yetu. January 2024.