Tiny Stories in a Big City

Ep.50 Stop.Motion.Magic | Inkspace Bureau

"The Big Sad Nairobi," took center stage at the Nairobi Design Festival 2023


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Ink Space Bureau [EP.50]

[00:00:00] Kyansimire Oroni: When you're an artist, especially, we've met a lot of artists in Nairobi who are always for lack of a better word, crippled with... oh, I don't have the best equipment, or I don't have this, or I can't do this.

[00:00:12] I have this amazing idea, but I can't do this. I've always prided myself in like, we use what we have and nothing beats a good story. Nothing beats an amazing story. It doesn't matter the equipment you use, the materials that you have.


[00:00:32] Naitiemu Nyanjom (Host): Hello everyone. Welcome to the Afrika Design Podcast. My name is Naitiemu and I'll be your host for today's episode. This episode comes from one of our Twitter spaces, which are hosted by Nairobi Design. You can tune in live to these spaces as we delve into a wide array of topics all aimed at tackling societal issues through a design lens.

[00:00:53] So make yourself comfortable, sit back, relax, grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy the show.


[00:01:03] Naitiemu Nyanjom (Host): Thank you so much for joining us tonight. It's really exciting night for us. We are celebrating International Design Day and are being joined by the amazing creatives from Ink Space Bureau.

[00:01:15] My name is Naitiemu. I'm a visual artist and also the festival lead at Nairobi Design.

[00:01:21] Adrian Jankowiak (Co-host): Hey, guys. Good evening. Hope you can hear me all. I'm Adrian. I started Nairobi Design Week. I'm a designer by profession, industrial product designer, and that also ties in a lot with symbols and symbolism, and looking forward to this conversation.

[00:01:38] And thank you guys for joining us tonight.

[00:01:41] Kyansimire Oroni: Hi everyone. My name is Kyansimire Oroni I'm an illustrator and filmmaker and writer at Ink Space. Ink Space Bureau is a collective of artists who like creating just cool things. We've been going now for about, three and a half years.

[00:01:59] We pride ourselves in being the only stop motion animation studio. Aside from that, we are really keen on doing illustration work and design work and even sound work that pushes and is easy, accessible to Nairobians, Kenyans and Africans. Really like putting Nairobi on our back and speaking about it.

[00:02:21] I'm the founder. That's pretty much our whole shtick. It's cool to be here.

[00:02:26] Naitiemu Nyanjom (Host): Great. I see Fillus is now speaker. Perhaps you could introduce yourself. Tell us more about what you do please.

[00:02:33] Derrick Kinyeki: Hi, my name is Kinyeki. 'Fillus Grillus' is my artist moniker. I am an illustrator, animator, and graphic designer part of Ink Space. I started out as a graphic designer although that's not the thing I did in campus.

[00:02:51] I just enjoyed creating stuff that I was seeing other people do. I wasn't satisfied with some of the work that I was seeing around, so I decided to create some work for myself and that's how I ended up doing graphic design, then veered off into illustrations from inspirations from friends. Started selling work.

[00:03:13] Then got really inspired to do animation. One thing led to another. I am currently now also into painting, watercolor and I try and create work that sparks conversations. Sometimes without even much effort. That's where my work veers off into. Thank you.

[00:03:34] Adrian Jankowiak (Co-host): Thank you. I was just checking out your feed. I don't know if it's the right time, but we'd love to know more about what inspires your work, the digital stuff I'm seeing on your feed.

[00:03:43] Derrick Kinyeki: I am mostly usually on Instagram but it's mostly commenting on the status of the country, trying to find humor and you'll find a lot of comics there, trying to find humor in the midst of it all.

[00:03:57] For example, I've recently done a piece that is touching on the recent protests that have been going on, which have stopped. You can find it on Instagram.

[00:04:06] Naitiemu Nyanjom (Host): Thank you Kinyeki. It's really amazing the kind of team Ink Space Bureau has because you're all very multi-talented and versatile creatives, and that's the beauty of it. You coming together from this, The BIG Sad Nairobi stop motion animation and which is not just an animation, but it's actually a story where you get to hear a narration.

[00:04:29] And we'll have them talk about the project that they showcase at Nairobi Design Week. We had the festival in March. We have an annual festival.

[00:04:38] And for this year, the festival was in March 11th to the 19th. It was our eighth edition and the theme was, 'it's what we make it'. We invited and people got to apply to be part of the festival. And we were happy to have this as one of the submissions. We were so excited and just like watching it and having to experience it at the festival was even a more amazing experience.

[00:05:01] So I let the team talk, but tell us more about the Big Sad Nairobi. Why did you create this piece of art? What inspired this creation?

[00:05:11] Kyansimire Oroni: Alright. The big sad Nairobi is based off a short comic series that I do on my digital platforms.

[00:05:21] The main character is a goat who personifies human emotions and likeness. If you're an artist here, I'm sure that when you create, there's always the looming sense of feeling of I need this to be perfect. I need this to be, you know, before I show it to the world.

[00:05:43] And I was like that as well. This comic series came out from that need to just let go of being perfect and putting out quote unquote something that's polished. If you look at the comic series, it's very... some people can't tell, but it's very hastily drawn. And it doesn't pay attention to details sometimes, but the message still passes across.

[00:06:10] That's what brought about this film. As I said earlier when we were introducing ourselves, we are Stop Motion Studio. We are in love with this a form of storytelling and film. So this was a story that we felt like it was needed to be shared in that format. For anyone who's listening, again, who doesn't know about this or my work, so basically the Big Sad Nairobi is, let's say this is about a goat who traverses different human emotions. He questions himself about life. He is based in Nairobi, he's African. He talks about friendship. He's on a quest to just being a better human. And I think with Inkspace, our stories are really keen on telling stories that bring humans together.

[00:07:04] As cheesy as it sounds, we found that some of the most cheesy sounding things in the world are some of the most vulnerable and some of the realest things, you know, So we just wanted to bring that to the forefront, basically. So this film is just about our main character, tackling forgiveness, tackling moving forward, tackling past battles.

[00:07:26] And we found like the most battles that people face that are hard fought are usually from within. Again, another incredibly cheesy saying, but it's true and we're not really trying to pull heartstrings or anything like that.

[00:07:43] It's amazing the reception that we got from the people who watched it. I think we all drew personal experiences while we were making this film, so it was collective effort. Inkspace has digital animators and VFX specialist like Derrick, who's here with me.

[00:08:01] We have someone who's studied fine arts, so as far as building sets and things like that. Myself, was directing the project and storyboarding it and making sure the characters, you know, how they're supposed to look like. it's a really cool project. We're really keen on collaborative work.

[00:08:21] I think when you look at the film, it just shows different elements, different elements of everyone who worked on the film. Yeah, that's pretty much it.

[00:08:30] Naitiemu Nyanjom (Host): Thank you for that Kyansimire, I'd love to know more about the process. You've said you're a team, you all have different roles.

[00:08:37] Please take us through the process of kind of how you did this film from the conception to I guess now we've showcased it at Nairobi Design Week and the future of it.

[00:08:48] Kyansimire Oroni: Yeah. So, the concept was I had this story. This was supposed to be a short comic that was supposed to go out but I decided, hey, maybe we can make a stop motion film. And any good story, you know, has to have like a beginning and a midland. And usually that's where my thought process comes in. When I'm thinking about a story, it's easier to formulate it. Like, oh, this is how my story's gonna start and this is how it's going to end, and this is how it's going to be in the middle.

[00:09:19] So when I figured out for this particular story, I went and developed it. We thought about the best way, and to be honest, the fastest way to put it out. Thinking of stop motion, we used different materials. We used play-Doh, plasticine but with this we thought, hey, we can use paper. Paper is so versatile. It's something that can be manipulated so beautifully, so beautiful. So, we decided we were gonna use paper. Again, it was just born out of necessity and the need to finish this project and put it out there. When we decided on paper, after the story was done, I brought the guys over. Derrick and myself.

[00:10:03] We started cutting out the backdrops. Everything you see was made by hand, aside from some other bits that Derrick will talk about. Everything was cut by hand. We shot this film as well using a phone, which is incredible as well. If you visited our booth at Nairobi Design Week, we had the setup there.

[00:10:26] When you're an artist, especially, we've met a lot of artists in Nairobi who are always for lack of a better word, crippled with... oh, I don't have the best equipment, or I don't have this, or I can't do this.

[00:10:38] I have this amazing idea, but I can't do this. I've always prided myself in like, we use what we have and nothing beats a good story. Nothing beats an amazing story. It doesn't matter the equipment you use, the materials that you have. You can have the most expensive materials and your story might not resonate to anyone.

[00:11:02] So that's how we came about this. Sheldon who studied fine art in Kenyata University was our main animator. He's really good with his hands and movements and just knowing how things move. We built the set with a mixture of magazine cutouts and drawings of the character and manila paper.

[00:11:32] Basically we were just using whatever we had. We knew the story was good. After that, that's where Derrick came in. He did some work on the film as well as far as post-production. Maybe can talk about that now.

[00:11:46] Derrick Kinyeki: Maybe some of the details Zord Files has left out was the urgency with which this project came with because a week prior to Design Week, I had no idea this was going to happen.

[00:12:02] So, Zord Files ambushed me and told me, hey, by the way, we are going to be featured in Nairobi Design Week. I'm coming up with a story. I'm currently writing a storyboard, one thing led to another and the five of us, we had to drop everything to try and come up with something tangible by the end of the week.

[00:12:25] So that included a lot of late nights. Mind you, we do not live in the same house or anything like that. And yet we had to be in the same house to have some cohesion in the work that we are trying to do. Especially the first few days because we hadn't exactly figured out how the backgrounds were going to come together.

[00:12:48] I went to Gifts Place and I saw all these magazines displayed and lying around and I figured we can make a background using the materials we have here 'cause that's, I think the whole spirit behind stop motion is use what you have. That's how we ended up with the piece together.

[00:13:12] I think they are collages of backgrounds. We needed to really put things together. Something that was making sense because the story was there. A really good story. But we needed the visuals to go along with it. 99% of the work was done manually using storyboarding.

[00:13:34] Then when I went to piece together the videos, as gift mentioned, it was shot using phones with these very MacGyvered rig that we had going. In fact the green screen was Sheldon's shirt. He's a big dude. So it was spread all over the table. We put a glass screen on the green T-shirt. If you know how green screens work, it makes work really easy because you just put the video in after effects and remove the green screen and you have something, for example, if it's a walk cycle, you can have a walk cycle that can be repeated in different sections of the story.

[00:14:13] So that's how we piece together the narrative. When we tell people We did this in one week, sometimes they get really surprised. But really with enough cooperation, it's not really that hard because some pieces are repeated. As long as the story is great, it compensate for some of the things that maybe you might not notice as the person on the other side of the screen.

[00:14:36] For example, if you have watched the film and you've looked at where it's raining. It got to that point and you realized, you know, we need to add rain here and we cannot go back to shooting. So what do we do? So we had to figure out something that isn't part of the shots we made, but we have to make it also look extremely, you know, I have to make it look story boarded too.

[00:14:57] Reducing the frame rates so that it can be harmonized with the rest of the work. That's the kind of post-production that was going on. Surprisingly, even some of our members of Inkspace were seeing the film in the same day, you know, when the rest of the guys at Nairobi Design Week were seeing it.

[00:15:15] And they were pleasantly surprised at the work we had put together. So I was personally extremely excited because I have not done stop motion thing before. So this was a great learning moment for me, not only bringing my skills but also learning stop motion as we go because that's actually one of the... don't know whether we can call it a motto when creators come together and are collaborating for a project. And surprisingly we produced good results such as the Big Sad Nairobi.

[00:15:49] Adrian Jankowiak (Co-host): Amazing.

[00:15:50] Naitiemu Nyanjom (Host): Wow. This is amazing. That's incredible.

[00:15:53] Wow. Wow, wow. This has been a very interesting, engaging, feedback and I really hope you guys were able to capture behind the scenes because I really feel like now having seen the final piece, I would love to see all that you are explaining here. So I hope you've captured that and we'll be able to share with us later.

[00:16:11] Adrian Jankowiak (Co-host): Thanks a lot guys. What was the set on the practical side? How did you ensure consistent lighting? Is it something you had to find a space for, for the week? And then how did you go about shooting it?

[00:16:24] Kyansimire Oroni: Alright. Yeah, so the set was my kitchen table. How we ensured there's consistent lighting... we're lucky to have like studio lights. We did not shoot it under any natural light. We shot it all in my house. The set did not move.

[00:16:43] If you work with stop motion, you can't move the set. So, you have to make sure you finish a scene before you change it. Just think of a kitchen table and that was basically the set. And yes, we do have some BTS. We hope we can be able to share that soon when we finish the second part of the film.

[00:17:04] Naitiemu Nyanjom (Host): Great. Please anyone with questions, please ask. Meanwhile, please follow Kyansimire @zord_files on Instagram. And Derek, please remind us your handles. And of course you follow them all on Instagram at Ink Space underscore Bureau, right?

[00:17:20] Derrick Kinyeki: Yeah.

[00:17:21] Adrian Jankowiak (Co-host): Thanks a lot guys. And thank you to our listeners as well. I'm seeing, you know, animators and, familiar people. So thanks a lot for joining us. We hope this has been useful. Make sure you check out the film. We're gonna be sharing it as well along with all the other exhibits from the festival on our website.

[00:17:40] And hopefully once we get that BTS as well, we'll be able to link to it through our various platforms. So, let's keep in touch and thanks a lot everyone. We're trying to connect people, so that's what community's about. So really great to have you all, and we'll be doing more of these Twitter spaces as well. So stay up to date and we'll catch you all soon.

[00:18:04] Thanks a lot guys. Really insightful. Love the work. And the goat's a really cool character as well. There's a goat character in Polish culture. I'm from Poland. I think the character's about a hundred years old, but it's also this goat that has shorts and has a kind of travel sack and goes around, I think there's 120 stories around it. So here's hoping this also goes to 130 stories. I'm not sure if there's an English version of the name.

[00:18:34] Kyansimire Oroni: Please share that, share that Adrian, share that with...

[00:18:38] Naitiemu Nyanjom (Host): Great. Good night guys.

[00:18:40] Derrick Kinyeki: Good night guys.

[00:18:40] Adrian Jankowiak (Co-host): Good night.

In this episode, we are joined by Gift Kyansimire and Derrick Kinyeki from Inkspace Bureau. They are a Stop Motion studio in Kenya and makers of the film—The Big Sad Nairobi.

The film is about a goat that personifies human interactions and emotions while trying to become a better person. This film was first showcased at the Nairobi Design Festival 2023

They take us through the process of how they made the film and what drives them to use stop motion in storytelling. Gift, emphasized the importance of using available resources rather than waiting for expensive equipment. Their story is a testament to the power of storytelling.

In just one week, this dynamic team of five transformed a concept into a visually captivating masterpiece. They crafted intricate paper backdrops, shot the film with a smartphone, and even improvised a green screen. Their dedication and creativity shine through in every frame.

The Big Sad Nairobi is more than just a film; it's a testament to collaboration, resourcefulness, and the art of stop motion.

This is the 20th episode under the ‘Shifting Narratives’ program supported by the British Council SSA Arts.

Episode Credits

Produced by Nairobi Design

HostAdrian Jankowiak

Producer, Shorts & Artwork: David King'ori

Music: Ngalah Oreyo (@ngalah_oreyo) and Mercy Barno (@merc.b_)