The Dadaab Animation Project

Mission: To conduct animation workshops & lead animation exercises with youth in the Dadaab Refugee Camp, in order to create a short, educational film about HIV/AIDS on behalf of FilmAid International. Here, we will be documenting the process, as well as introducing you to the filmmakers/animators -- the students of Dadaab!


Who we are.  Links we like.  Get involved.   Questions?  

We are so proud to introduce you to Falis, yet another shining star who participated in the making of our animated film, “Growing Healthy, Growing UP!”.  Falis, a Somali national and refugee in Dadaab, began class with us as one of just a few girls, who would nervously shake her head and keep her hands in her desk when presented with a camera. As you can imagine, on this day in June, just 4 weeks later, when she stepped before our camera and recited us her poem on a girl’s right to an education, Melissa and I were overcome with pride and joy.  We felt as though we bore witness to a rapid evolution.  Here it was, plain as day, the proof that all birds are truly ready to fly if given enough space to spread their wings. 

Falis’ poem is not about Dadaab.  It is not about Somalia.  It is not even about Africa.  At a time where women’s voices EVERYWHERE, even right here in my own country, are demanding to be heard, demanding to tell the world that they can be quieted no more, Falis’ poem is about unity, equality, and a better future for all.

"Let’s forget about the past, and step forward.  To promote peace and stability around the world.  Girls is our name, our nature has no shame.  Boys, girls, men and women, we are one, and equally created.  Let’s be together, and forever united."

"Thanks."

An Homage to Animation, in Ojullu’s words.

I remember the day when I met with animation…do you?

Actually, I remember it as two distinctly different days.  The first as a young-little-lisa, watching a special on how Disney films were made.  Wait…Animation?  You mean…Ariel…isn’t…actually under the sea??  Blasphemy!

At first, I was nothing short of heartbroken…but oddly enough, without knowing it until years later, something within me was deciding that ‘animation’ would be my future.  Then, when years later had arrived in the form of Marty Abraham’s ‘Intro to Animation’ class, I animated a flipbook (an umbrella falling through the sky if I remember correctly), and I recorded that sucker onto a VHS tape (uh-huh uh-huh).  And in that moment when I saw those few crude drawings cycling away on a screen, well, it was nothing but pure magic.

As students of animation, as animators by ‘profession’, we oftentimes forget the beauty that is the very nature of animation.  Animation is our job.  It is what we do.  It is what our peers do, too.  And it doesn’t always pay the bills, and so on.  But this attitude, which naturally comes about after some time in the real world, forgets the magic, the ability to make possible the impossible, the sheer joy of what it is that we do!  As animators, we are breathing life into the otherwise lifeless…giving pencil strokes, mere scraps of paper, and inanimate objects a chance to live, to tell a story, or to convey a series of emotions.

And this is precisely why Ojullu’s poem about the day he met with animation touched me so deeply, and why I feel it is so important to share it with you, in his words, with his voice, instead of as inanimate words on your computer screen.

It is so easy to find a hole in which to secure ourselves, working on perfecting our latest masterpiece, or pitchbook, or webseries, or what have you.  After all, animation, unlike ‘live-action’, can be a solitary act, a no-budget basement production.  But as animators, we are filmmakers and artists, and we have the same immense responsibility to respond to the world around us as honestly and truly as possible, to raise our voices, or to help others raise their own voices.

Today’s animated challenge?  Pull back the blinds! Open up the windows! Toss down your long, blonde braid! And invite someone in – your neighbor, your little sister, or someone from a far away land that you’ve never met before.  Share with them the magic of animation, and you will no doubt be brought back to the first time you met with the animated fruits of your labor!  And maybe you will remember why, in that moment, it didn’t seem like labor at all.

(lisa)

**To read more of Ojullu’s work, or peer into his evolution as poet & actor, please visit the blog of our dear friends, Michael & Julianna, of the Dadaab Theater Project.**

We’d like you to meet Akway - Ethiopian national, Refugee in Dadaab, and so much more.  One of the shining stars behind the scenes.  We hope you enjoy!

In the midst of Fourth of July dessert preparation (or fanaticism), it’s come to my attention that there is another Independence Day to be recognized this weekend.
July 1st marks the day, in 1960, that both the newly independent British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland united to become the Republic of Somalia.
And although nearly half of this young nation’s life has been drenched in civil war, I hope we can take this weekend to not only celebrate our own nation’s freedom, but also to pray for peace for our brothers and sisters in Somalia.
Lastly, a Happy Birthday to a dear friend and amazing human being, Moulid Hujale, who happens to celebrate HIS day of birth on July 1st as well!  Currently, Moulid, a resident of Dadaab, a PVP member, and the mastermind who keeps us informed with The Refugee, is in Nairobi where he met with the Somali ambassador to Kenya.  Moulid, we are proud of you!

In the midst of Fourth of July dessert preparation (or fanaticism), it’s come to my attention that there is another Independence Day to be recognized this weekend.

July 1st marks the day, in 1960, that both the newly independent British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland united to become the Republic of Somalia.

And although nearly half of this young nation’s life has been drenched in civil war, I hope we can take this weekend to not only celebrate our own nation’s freedom, but also to pray for peace for our brothers and sisters in Somalia.

Lastly, a Happy Birthday to a dear friend and amazing human being, Moulid Hujale, who happens to celebrate HIS day of birth on July 1st as well! Currently, Moulid, a resident of Dadaab, a PVP member, and the mastermind who keeps us informed with The Refugee, is in Nairobi where he met with the Somali ambassador to Kenya. Moulid, we are proud of you!

While every refugee’s story is different and their anguish personal, they all share a common thread of uncommon courage – the courage not only to survive, but to persevere and rebuild their shattered lives.~ Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, 2005
On today, World Refugee Day, we want to celebrate the inherent spirit of humanity and hope that we’ve seen prevailing, against all odds, in each and every refugee that we’ve had the fortune to meet in Dadaab, and that we know prevails in each and every displaced person across the globe.  
When presented with such numbers as “43 million displaced persons worldwide" and "450,000 refugees calling Dadaab home by the end of 2011”, we also want to celebrate the individuality of these refugees who oftentimes are simply represented as a statistic.  It is the mission of FilmAid International to ensure that individual voices are heard, through the power of film, art, and expression.  In the coming weeks, as Melissa & I tackle post-production, we hope to continue to share the Dadaab Animation Project with you by personalizing the process and introducing you to the individuals involved, rather than just lesson plans.  
Finally, we want to continue to raise awareness.  When Melissa & I arrived in Dadaab in May, we knew very little of this reality, and we are overwhelmed by what we have learned in the last weeks.  For this reason, we would like to reach out to you: our friends, our families, our colleagues, our fellow enthusiasts for animation, our fellow enthusiasts for human rights, and ask that you help us to spread the word, because one refugee without hope is too many.  
Once more, we encourage you to take a moment today, to take part in the UNHCR’s "Do 1 Thing" campaign today, by either learning, sharing, or giving.  
(lisa)

While every refugee’s story is different and their anguish personal, they all share a common thread of uncommon courage – the courage not only to survive, but to persevere and rebuild their shattered lives.
~ Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, 2005

On today, World Refugee Day, we want to celebrate the inherent spirit of humanity and hope that we’ve seen prevailing, against all odds, in each and every refugee that we’ve had the fortune to meet in Dadaab, and that we know prevails in each and every displaced person across the globe.  

When presented with such numbers as “43 million displaced persons worldwide" and "450,000 refugees calling Dadaab home by the end of 2011”, we also want to celebrate the individuality of these refugees who oftentimes are simply represented as a statistic.  It is the mission of FilmAid International to ensure that individual voices are heard, through the power of film, art, and expression.  In the coming weeks, as Melissa & I tackle post-production, we hope to continue to share the Dadaab Animation Project with you by personalizing the process and introducing you to the individuals involved, rather than just lesson plans.  

Finally, we want to continue to raise awareness.  When Melissa & I arrived in Dadaab in May, we knew very little of this reality, and we are overwhelmed by what we have learned in the last weeks.  For this reason, we would like to reach out to you: our friends, our families, our colleagues, our fellow enthusiasts for animation, our fellow enthusiasts for human rights, and ask that you help us to spread the word, because one refugee without hope is too many.  

Once more, we encourage you to take a moment today, to take part in the UNHCR’s "Do 1 Thing" campaign today, by either learning, sharing, or giving.  

(lisa)

Today, Handicap International welcomed me into their Disability Center in Ifo Camp, where I hosted an Animation Workshop for the hearing impaired.
Since it was only officially organized yesterday morning, I wasn’t sure if it would be a big class, or even what age students to expect.  Refusing to let oceans divide us, Melissa and I had a g-chat brainstorm, and thought of 3 potential plans for the day, just in case.  (As you can see, we’ve learned from experience…!)  We looked at what has been most successful thus far with our PVP group, and modeled the class after that.  In general, even though the kids enjoy the process of making pixilations the best, the biggest ‘wow-factor’ has been with the cut-out animations, where we prep characters and shapes ahead of time, and have the group direct an animation with those elements.  I especially wanted to incorporate clay into today’s class, because it is so tactile and so hands-on. 
I was fortunate to work with five enthusiastic young men, who from the moment we shook hands, thanked me for coming to share and spend time with them.  Together, we made a paper moon rise & its stars shine, in order to introduce basic movement.  Then, a paper sun rose, and it’s clay sunbeams burst across the landscape, until some clouds came, and the sun set once more. 
Everything was perfect really, and I could not have asked for a better workshop — they dove right in, asked fantastic questions, and exhibited amazing leadership & teamwork skills.  And the appreciation for those brief 2 hours was overwhelming!  After we played everything back, one student typed into his phone, “thank you for sharing with us a great idea”.  After screening some of the work Melissa and I have done with Friends School, all of them asked if I would please come back tomorrow to do more with them. 
It would seem that the hearing impaired here in Dadaab have fewer opportunities to participate in activities and events, due to the nature of certain events and since interpreters are few and far between.  Thankfully, Paul Mugambi of Handicap International recognized immediately that animation as a visual art would be a perfect way to involve this specific group, and I am so very grateful that he encouraged me to organize this workshop.  I hope to visit once more before my departure, and to encourage projects such as these to continue after I have left Dadaab.

Today, Handicap International welcomed me into their Disability Center in Ifo Camp, where I hosted an Animation Workshop for the hearing impaired.

Since it was only officially organized yesterday morning, I wasn’t sure if it would be a big class, or even what age students to expect.  Refusing to let oceans divide us, Melissa and I had a g-chat brainstorm, and thought of 3 potential plans for the day, just in case.  (As you can see, we’ve learned from experience…!)  We looked at what has been most successful thus far with our PVP group, and modeled the class after that.  In general, even though the kids enjoy the process of making pixilations the best, the biggest ‘wow-factor’ has been with the cut-out animations, where we prep characters and shapes ahead of time, and have the group direct an animation with those elements.  I especially wanted to incorporate clay into today’s class, because it is so tactile and so hands-on. 

I was fortunate to work with five enthusiastic young men, who from the moment we shook hands, thanked me for coming to share and spend time with them.  Together, we made a paper moon rise & its stars shine, in order to introduce basic movement.  Then, a paper sun rose, and it’s clay sunbeams burst across the landscape, until some clouds came, and the sun set once more. 

Everything was perfect really, and I could not have asked for a better workshop — they dove right in, asked fantastic questions, and exhibited amazing leadership & teamwork skills.  And the appreciation for those brief 2 hours was overwhelming!  After we played everything back, one student typed into his phone, “thank you for sharing with us a great idea”.  After screening some of the work Melissa and I have done with Friends School, all of them asked if I would please come back tomorrow to do more with them. 

It would seem that the hearing impaired here in Dadaab have fewer opportunities to participate in activities and events, due to the nature of certain events and since interpreters are few and far between.  Thankfully, Paul Mugambi of Handicap International recognized immediately that animation as a visual art would be a perfect way to involve this specific group, and I am so very grateful that he encouraged me to organize this workshop.  I hope to visit once more before my departure, and to encourage projects such as these to continue after I have left Dadaab.

Today in Animation Land, we made a giraffe run (perhaps scurry is more like it?) and blackbirds fly!

Photos compliments of our Animation Team/Paparazzi in training.

Recording children singing in Halane primary school in Ifo today.  Here are their ABC’s.

A couple of pictures our students took of Monday’s animation project.

Making of “Raindrops”, a cut-out animation.

"The Flowers Monday"

I want to share with you one of the most exceptional moments of my life, let alone my experience here.  I’ve felt a good number of ‘feelings’ on this journey, and there is one thing that I can be sure of: I will never, ever be the same after its completion.  But I suppose that means that the journey has just begun?

On Monday, Melissa and I planned a cut-out animation exercise that you can see being made above.  The rain, it came.  The tree, it grew.  And the leaves, they sprouted!  On each raindrop - something that helps us to grow.  On each leaf, our names, nourished and given life by “education”, “food”, “water”, “football”, “advice”, “parents”, “support”, “happiness”, “play”, “skipping”. 

We were fortunate enough to have Ojullu, who studies with Michael & Julianna as part of the Dadaab Theater Project, join us to try his hand at animation.  Just two months ago, under the guidance of Michael & Julianna, Ojullu began to write poetry.  To say that they have helped Ojullu find his wings is a massive understatement.  Ojullu is an Ethiopian national, under refuge here in Dadaab, and he is a brilliant artist and writer, whose voice demands to be heard.  When he returned to our class on Tuesday, he presented me with this poem that he wrote about his experience during Monday’s session.  Please find more of Ojullu’s writing at the above link.

The Flowers Monday

It was bright Monday afternoon

When papers became Rain that let

Trees grow.

The untouchable fruits of tree

That let idle fruitbat sang happily

Hanging his legs on the branch with her

Head upside down, watching children under

The tree.  It make tree proud.

I am a tree planted by professional.

A shade to the minority, a host to the majority.

I am a host to fruitbats, a nest to the birds.

I am a tree planted by animation.

Tomorrow I will grow by my own and bare

fruits that feed whole world.

Wow!

When Lisa the water Lily the animation come

She made a paper sun, paper winter and

Paper Rain.

She captured the mind of hungry children.

The hungry children forget about hunger.

She is a babysitter to young babies, grandcat to

Kitten. Choir to the youth and Rain to the 

Bare land.

She planted tree that made our 

Ice teeth melt into water with laughter.

When I was in her class, paradise has

Become my favourite food.

It really touch my white paper heart

With her animation.  It made me grow bigger and 

Bigger with excitement until I am out of video
 frame.

Wow!

Wonderful, great.

Paper tree got stem, branch with butterfly

Leave.

Paper tree take Nutrient from soil
,

Photosynthesis from sun Light.

Wow! It’s amazing!

Animation

I want you to make me fly like a young

Blackbird.

Poem by Ojullu Opiew Ochan

Inspiration:  In honor of all you animators in Annecy right now!  I saw this award-winning film in 2006 at the Annecy Animation Festival, and I thought to myself, “This is the reason to keep making animated films”.  This film wows me every time I watch it in so many ways.  The laborious process that mimics scratchboard techniques, those camera moves (!!), the years spent making it, the beautiful woman behind it, the fuzzy warmness inside of me each time she flies away in the end!  Let’s all learn from Regina Pessoa to make films from the heart, with a beat loud enough that everyone can hear!

(available for purchase here.  this lo-res just does not do the film justice.)

(lisa)