Nigeria-born, Los Angeles-based animator and experimental filmmaker explores origin myths and Afrofuturism alongside graphic novelist Ezra Claytan Daniels
When animator and experimental filmmaker Adebukola “Buki” Bodunrin went on her first date with Ezra Claytan Daniels, she learned he was a comic book artist and that he shared her love of science fiction. The two hit it off, and right away Bodunrin wondered if they might work on a project together.
“We were both artists of color and both invested in showing science fiction that featured characters of color,” Bodunrin said recently by phone from her home in Los Angeles. “One of the things that is always extremely annoying about science fiction is that the future is always very white, even though statistics show that in the future we will continue to get more and more brown. But for some reason people of color are always erased in sci-fi narratives.”
Using a combination of hand-drawn and digital animation, Bodunrin and Daniels collaborated to make “The Golden Chain,” an experimental film that incorporates Bodunrin’s love of apocalyptic stories, creation myths and Afrofuturism. The seed of the idea for “The Golden Chain,” though, started with an episode of the podcast Radiolab.
“They were talking about what it would be like if you could make a universe in your kitchen sink. But in making it, you'd probably destroy the current world, and so that idea really struck me as an origin myth,” she said. “‘Golden Chain’ is also loosely based on the Yoruba creation myth, where this creator has created this world and these people, and then he's like, ‘Oh, no. I'm suddenly responsible for this stuff that I made.’ We wanted to make an origin story that was about this choice: What happens if you create something amazing, but then in making it and in having to participate in it, you have to destroy the current world that you're in?”Get news and entertainment delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our daily newsletter
“Even though I'm from Nigeria, and I have a very clear origin story that I can point to, I think for black people in the States, they don't know [their origin story],” she continued. “I think a lot about the differences in the diaspora, and one of the tensions that I think exists is this idea of home. So I wanted to create this origin myth for everyone — this idea of coming home and creating your own origin points.”
Bodunrin and Daniels are bringing “The Golden Chain” to the Wexner Center on Thursday, Sept. 26, as part of Cartoon Crossroads Columbus. The pair will also present some new augmented reality animations. “I’m definitely a bit of a tech nerd,” Bodunrin said. “I really like technology, and I like finding new and useful ways to incorporate that into my practice.”
Bodunrin stumbled onto animation and filmmaking by accident, initially beginning her academic journey as a journalism major. But a summer “electronic writing” course with a cyberpunk theme pointed her in a new direction. “For the final, instead of writing a paper, we had to build an HTML website,” she said. “It was a much more effective way of saying what I wanted to say. This combination of images and text and making these crazy paths for people to follow really spoke to me, so on a whim, without really knowing what I was doing, I changed my major to art. And I'd never taken an art class before. But the more I studied, the more I was drawn to moving images and animation.”
As a child, Bodunrin gravitated to Afrofuturism narratives and women of color in film, such as Grace Jones as Zula in “Conan the Destroyer.” “The Erykah Badu album Baduizm also really spoke to me as a teen. It was this more spiritual side of Afrofuturism,” she said. “[I was drawn to] these different depictions of blackness and being a person of color that didn't necessarily always center on a painful experience, but was about evolving into something else.”