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How Brian Wilson’s Aminah’s Journey captured Digital Lab Africa showcase

January 6th 2022, 11:00:00 am

Wilsons film was selected by the DLA as one of the two winners in the Animation category.

Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson, a Nigerian animator was one of the seven winners of the 2021 Digital Lab Africa, the premier incubation platform for emerging talent in the digital creative industry in Africa.

In its fifth edition, the DLA selected Wilson as one of the two winners in the Animation category with his film titled Aminah’s Journey.

The film is about a young Hausa girl who tries to make her way to safety after a violent attack on her village by Boko Haram terrorists separates her from her family.

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The idea for the film, Wilson said, came from the desire to create a socially conscious project that addressed the problem with a view to starting conversations that could bring about solutions.

“Rather than just focus on entertainment content which we do from time to time, we also think of ourselves as a social enterprise that must address issues that are prevalent in our society,” Wilson told Pulse.

Wilson said he and his team took a cue from Afrobeat great; Fela Kuti on how to use art to speak truth to power.

“We kind of feel like there are so many issues surrounding us that we can’t just be focused on entertainment,” he said.

We decided that we were going to touch on topics and societal issues and address them with the power of animation and storytelling.

It was the highly reported April 2014 kidnapping of over 200 girls in Chibok by Boko Haram terrorists that got Wilson interested in the plight of victims of insurgency in the north.

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“The Chibok girls got me interested in the story and we started reading up on those types of articles and doing some visual research,” he said.

We came across various things like what TY Bello was doing with the photography in that area.

“She actually visited these areas in Borno where the terrorist activities were at their peak and people were being displaced and rendered refugees in their own country.

“So essentially, we did a bunch of reading from news materials and gathered visual research from photographers taking photos in the area.”

We thought of a young 11-year-old female character as our main protagonist because young girls seemed to be the most affected by the crisis.” Wilson said about Aminah, the main character of the film.

The true stories of what is going on in the north are probably something that is too sad to tell in a factual sense though.

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“We knew that we wouldn’t want to watch anything that is so full of death and destruction and so we decided to make a young girl the protagonist and to tell the story through her eyes in order to make the story one that is more accessible to a younger and wider audience.

With the film idea, Wilson was one of the seven extremely talented creators that were chosen in the showcase across three categories.

We found out earlier in the year that we had won and we were obviously excited because it wasn’t the first time that we would put in for the competition,” he said.

After being chosen, he and the other winners had to go through a workshop as part of the process of being selected in the Digital Lab Africa showcase. As a result, Wilson was also part of the Annecy International Animation Film Festival; the biggest animation film festival in the world.

“Being involved in the whole process was quite exciting as it kind of puts you in touch with global practitioners in animation from all over the world,” he also said.

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With the biggest studios like Disney and Netflix in attendance, Wilson had the opportunity of pitching in the Digital Lab Africa pitches in front of audiences from all over the world.

This platform also led to a feature on Cartoon Brew, the biggest animation news platform in the world.

There is also a slew of mentorships and a residency in France to come.

Wilson is not done with using his art to address societal ills. Concepts in that line dominate his future plans.

I think because art and animation are storytelling mediums that have the capacity to impact people’s world view, it's important that we start to tell these kinds of stories even more” he said.

Wilson fell in love with animation from the moment he watched Toy Story, which was the first 3D animation feature film.

I decided that this was really what I wanted to do,” he said.

The opportunity came via education and he went to study for a Masters Degree in Computer Animation from Bournemouth University.

For his Masters’ Degree project, he created his animation around issues of water scarcity in Africa with a short film titled ‘Water Wahala’.

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‘Water Wahala’ was a 3D animation short film that later screened at various festivals, in Nigeria, the United States, Norway and Silicon Valley making it to official selection or finalist in each of the film festivals.

He has also started a project called ‘Pedestrian Etiquette’ to teach people; especially young children, how to properly use the streets.

“I found that a lot of people in Nigeria do not know that there is such a thing as walking on the wrong side of the road” he said.

“And it doesn’t help that there aren’t a lot of pavements around so people can be walking on the side of the road where they are backing traffic, many times leading to accidents that could have been avoided if that pedestrian was just facing the traffic.

“Seeing that Africans have the largest number of pedestrian deaths annually, I think that it is an important issue worth tackling. “

Digital Lab Africa is an initiative of the French Institute and the French Embassy in South Africa and is supported by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the French Embassy in South Africa, THE French Embassy in Nigeria, SACEM, TV5Monde as well as a network of incredible partners.

The programme is managed by the South African innovation hub Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct since 2016. It has supported 48 digital artists since its inception.


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