This project holds a deeply personal significance for me.
I dedicated a lot of time and energy to its development in 2020, a year that was
unquestionably out of the ordinary. That pivotal year in my life, fresh from my graduation at Hyper Island, I found myself in London, seeking a foothold in the animation industry. The world, consumed by the pandemic, was in turmoil. But my own world was restless, ridden with excitement and anticipation. Yet, I was feeling strangely empty. Around the globe, the Black Lives Matter Movement was unfurling, stirring up deep-seated emotions. Lying in my room, I found myself ensnared in the doom-scrolling vortex in my phone-screen, a never-ending stream of racial injustices that hit me, raw and relentless. I was adrift, awash in a sea of emotions, directionless.
It was unsettling, the sudden attention racism was receiving. Friends asked how I was doing, their concern sincere but oblivious. For them, racism had just emerged into the daylight, casting long shadows. But for me, and many like me, it had always been a lifelong companion - the dark specter we often encountered when we dared to understand language, spoken, written, or implied. Past pain surged, flooding my mind. I was back in my childhood, a young black boy growing up in a predominantly white town in southern Sweden. Microaggressions were a pervasive presence in my life: backhanded compliments about my skin, praise for my fluency in Swedish despite having lived here my entire life, and the casual racism directed at immigrants and my friends. These were often followed by the placating assertion that I was one of the 'good ones.'
My reflection upon past altercations over racist remarks was mixed with a bitter realization.
The realization that I could not possibly rise against every instance of racism, for it would become an eternal battle, eroding my spirit and ironically playing into their hands. As I grew older, I adopted a more stoic approach, living by the mantra, "do not let them see you sweat."
But the events of 2020 inevitable shattered my composure, the ceaseless barrage of black lives senselessly extinguished ignited a fire of rage within me. In the throes of this anger, a beacon of relatability and solace appeared on my screen - a poem by AJ Addae titled "Black people only write about the moon". Amidst my anger, I found a sliver of solace, a spark that kindled the urge to direct my fury somewhere
other than inward. One memory kept resurfacing - a late November night in 2011 when I heading home from school. Alone at a bus station in Skara, I found myself hunted by four older men, their malice looming like a storm cloud. The chilling echoes of their racist slurs, 'vit makt, n*gerslakt' (white power, n*ggerslaughter), pierced the cold night as I fled, my heartbeat drowning the fear that clung to me. As I hid in bushes; crouched, shivering and soaked in fear, it dawned upon me - 'do not let them see you sweat' holds no solace when you're forced to turn your sprint of perseverance into a desperate race for your life.
The Negro Space Program," first scene depicts this harrowing experience. "The Negro Space Program," is the echo of that helpless, disempowering night. It's an echo that found a voice over the next year and a half, as the animation took shape. Creating it became a balm, soothing the raw wounds of my intrusive memories.
"The Negro Space Program" is a dual response – a reaction to both recent and past events in the world and an expression of experiences and emotions that resonate across the black diaspora worldwide. This animated short doesn't seek to preach or provide a definitive truth about these topics – that would be an objective beyond the scope of any animation. However, creating it has been a cathartic process for me. I hope that through its vivid imagery and evocative narrative, it can elicit empathy, introspection, and perhaps even a measure of healing – emotions and processes that binds our shared humanity.
I started animating on the first scene just to blow off some steam. But soon,
I found myself engrossed in adapting AJ Addae's poem with no end in
sight. I had to add some structure to the process, so I turned to
storyboarding. This choice proved invaluable as the storyboard assisted
me in transforming the nebulous narratives in my mind into something
decidedly more focused and tangible.
The storyboard served as a visual translation of the poem, morphing
words into images, emotions into characters, and metaphors into concrete
moments. The characters are more than figures. They symbolize deeper
themes, serving as embodiments of alienation, struggle, resilience, and
transcendence. Their journey, from an 'otherness' lens to the reclamation of
identity, mirrors the poignant narrative of the AJ Addae's poem. The parts
featured here, although not flashy, were crucial to making this animation.
- Character #2
- Character #1
- Space Capsule
Feel free to try it out. Press 'controls' to open the face controls
Performance may vary depending on the device.
Nasra Rashid - Book illustrations and voiceover
Yuvia Maini Rekdal - Some space background visuals
Mumtaz Duran - Spaceship UI animations and idea springboard
Jonathan Nilsson - Reference recorder and my biggest critic.
Amanda Schönebeck - Idea sounding board
to share this animation journey and screen my short at numerous festivals.
Currently, it remains exclusive to festival attendees but I welcome anyone
interested in arranging wider screenings to get in touch with producer Grace at (firstname.lastname@example.org). Alternatively, you can email me directly to obtain
a single-viewer link.