June 28, 2023
Room to Read’s soon-to-be-released film series, She Creates Change, would not have been possible without an incredible all-women team of directors, animation artists, voice actors, composers, producers and writers curated by BAFTA-winning entertainment company, Nexus Studios. These talented women brought a unique and diverse perspective to each film, helping to showcase the stories of six young women from Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program.
Today, we’re introducing Claudia Chinyere Akole, a first-generation Australian of Armenian-Iranian and Nigerian heritage who led as co-director and art director for Naifat’s short film, which tells the story of a young girl from Tanzania who found self-confidence through singing.
Claudia is an exhibiting artist, illustrator, cartoonist, designer, animator and educator based in Sydney, Australia (unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal peoples of the Dharug Nation.) She is most passionate about pursuing projects that further social causes for young people, the LGBTQ+ community, First Nations people, people of color, migrants and refugees and work that strives to close gaps in gender, class and racial inequality.
A well-awarded comic artist, Claudia most recently was celebrated at the Comic Arts Awards of Australia 2021 for her work titled “Why Black Lives Matter Resonates With Black People All Over the World: An Open Letter to Australians (Going Down Swinging).” Claudia’s work embraces Black people with a particular focus on capturing their features accurately and not defaulting to a Eurocentric visual language when simplifying their designs.
“I’ve used art my whole life as a process to understand or express my own feelings or experiences,” Claudia shared. “I use it as a means to understand and appreciate the world around me. If I can create things that resonate with others, then perhaps I can find myself closer to the reason humans are capable of communicating with and understanding each other.”
Naifat’s story in She Creates Change reveals themes of discovering self-confidence and self-acceptance in the face of uncertainty and stress caused by her parents’ divorce. When Naifat pursued singing as an avenue of joy, she gained more confidence in herself and her abilities as a young Black woman.
In developing Naifat’s short film, Claudia portrayed Naifat’s animation in a way that stays true to her features while also uses visually interesting approaches typical to Black art such as clear silhouettes created by hair, non-literal colors for light or shadow on dark skin and facial proportions more representative of common East African features.
The She Creates Change film series, which will be released in October 2023 to commemorate International Day of the Girl, aims to reach all 432 million adolescent girls globally with content and educational curriculum that supports them in creating change in their communities.
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