The visuals I chose for my first set of creative translations are from stories already composed by farmers in two role plays – one by women and one by men – from a GALS gender training for Muungano Fair Trade coffee cooperative from DRC.
I chose to work with these images first because the role play narratives were very powerful and highlighted different things about women and men’s perceptions. These stories and effects of men’s control of coffee money, alcoholism and adultery and corruption of officials are common across all the coffee sector in East Africa, including Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. So these role play stories have wider implications as advocacy in the coffee sector – Fair Trade as well as private sector companies. Woman on woman violence is also a common issue because of women’s vulnerability. Divisions and arguments between married and unmarried (ie girlfriends) women are often at least as significant at participatory workshops as between women and men. Acording to hospital admissions, leading to extreme violence and even murder – including murder of a friend of mine by her husband’s girlfriend.
This was also the only clear set of visuals I have of farmers’ complete stories, as opposed to vignettes from drawings that I then interpret from interviews and other contextual information. The photos are of variable technical quality as they were taken in difficult bright lighting while I was focusing on facilitation and documenting the narrative. But many are very expressive and dynamic when edited as the basis for sketching and further development for animation. Importantly the photos provided a basis for developing my ability to draw local expressions and body language so that animations could abstract and clarify without resorting to stereotypes and potentially racist tropes. They also highlighted both the ways in which women and men perceive their own and the opposite gender – both seriously and as comedy.
2.2.1 ‘Tupa Tupa’, DRCongo: narrative and grammar of the shot
‘Tupa Tupa’ (the drunkard) animations are based on photos from role plays on gender issues in the households by women and men coffee farmers in a Fair Trade cooperative in DRCongo. Women and men did separate plays on what happens to the money from coffee. – women do most of the work. Men ‘own’ the money and spend on alcohol and women in town. Money also goes to corrupt lawyers and the police because of men’s lack of responsibility.
Apart from its importance in advocacy, I selected this photograph series because it gives an example of dramatic community narratives. Also one of my best photo resources for dramatic sketching beyond stereotypes and collage.
In terms of creative translation a challenge was to combine women and men’s stories into one narrative. The role plays themselves combined humour as well as serious commentary, but also based on community gender stereotyping for comic effect. I have to make decisions about how far to exaggerate this further for greater dramatic effect, and how far to have something more gender neutral.
Sound effects will be key and need to be sources and added. Drumming I can get from other video I have, then add fighting and other sound effects from Adobe Audition.
This will be an animatic or series of short vignettes. Using Lightroom – Procreate – Premiere.
Box 5a ‘Tupa Tupa’ Key Questions
- Different possibilities of narrative sequence eg starting with the women’s fight – explanation of woman on woman violence or picture of Tupa Tupa all alone, rejected by his family.
- Use of humour
Grammar of the shot:
- Increasing drama through simplification/clarification of composition
- Directing the gaze eg girlfriend feeling man’s pocket to see how much money he has, lawyer putting money from police chief in his pocket
- How relevant are the Illusion of Life animation principles?
- Need to look at camera moves and lighting
- Maintaining clear link with ‘reality’ of the story through using photographs. Photographs edited and cropped versus collage/digital illustration from the photos?
- Use of colour and line
Women’s role play:
Photos edited and clarified in Lightroom
Women’s role play story
- Wives and daughters in the family are working in the fields while the man sits back
- The women carry the coffee to market. The man accompanies them and keeps the money.
- The man persuades them to go home, promising to come soon. The women go back.
- The man goes to the bar and his girlfriend.
- His girlfriend persuades him to buy her not only drinks, but also fancy clothes in the market.
- The daughter goes to the market to find the father and see him with the girlfriend. Then goes back to tell her mother.
- The women then all go and attack – not the husband – but the girlfriend (a point of much discussion).
Men’s role play:
Photos edited and clarified in Lightroom
Men’s role play story
‘Tupa Tupa’ means ‘drink, drink’ – the man’s nickname.
- men take all the money to gamble, drink and buy presents for his ‘girlfriend’ in town
- the man gets put in jail because of a fight
- the lawyer and police chief work together to extort bribes from the family to secure his release
- the family is left without money
- the only winners from the whole coffee production are the corrupt officials
- ….till they use the GALS participatory visioning methodology
Inspiration: Genndy Tartakovsky
The key source of inspiration for these animations is the dramatic and simplified visual style of Genndy Tartakovsky.
Inspiration: puppet/collage animation
But maintaining the link to ‘reality’ through clear style link to the photographs – either through digital montage in Procreate on my iPad. Or photo collage of photos edited and cropped then animated in Stop Motion or After Effects.
Storyboarding process and ‘narrative kernels
Identifying and sketching ‘narrative scene kernels’ and keyframes for animation
I think this narrative has a lot of dramatic potential, although the work required to fully develop it is probably outside the scope of this research and may need to be left until a later stage after my degree. The aim here has been to develop something that I could propose as work in progress for advocacy, and to get feedback on style etc if I were to work on it further.
As the farmer stories were very clear, I need a very clear simplified story to which can be added comic touches and very selective cut out or drawn animation.
Some of the most interesting images in terms of story were not always of the highest technical quality. My first task was therefore to edit them in Lightroom to get more consistent colour and tone. And to make a selection for a narrative.
In terms of visuals there were a number of ways that the photos could be used:
- cropped photos – what colour/saturation/tone? simplified? edit in Photoshop filters? put together in Premiere.
- shape cutout collage on plain/simple background as cut out animation in Stop Motion
- simplified composites animated in Procreate/TVPaint
I then use these photos as the basis for exploring issues in visual narrative, using framing, editing and camera movement to tell the story rather than animating movement itself. Using pencil, ink and crayon sketches, refined in Procreate 5 on my iPad for the sketches and Adobe Premiere.
Stage 1: Scene kernels
first keyframe drafts
I printed out and edited the Lightroom images, dividing these into separate narrative elements and pasting them into my Sketchlog. I then drew and painted over these, and did freehand sketches to get a better idea of the dynamic potential of each scene.
Do a more complete animatic with:
- timings for each scene
- more in-betweens from the photos – either just cropped photos or collage cut-outs
- sound effects and music