Gather + Listen

An animation that focuses on the subtle movements and rhythms that unconsciously happen at an owambe, a Nigerian street party. As people come together in joy, their hearts begin to beat to the same rhythm, as if united in happiness.

Two green hands and two line-drawing mouths on a background of slightly rumpled white paper, with pinkish splotches.

Multi-disciplinary artist and animator Adebukola Buki Bodunrin is probably best known for her sci-fi short The Golden Chain, created in collaboration with graphic novelist Ezra Claytan Daniels and currently featured in prestige streaming platform The Criterion Channel's Afrofuturism series. Striking as that film is, its speculative lens is of a piece with the Chicago-based Nigerian Canadian artist's CV, which also includes, among other things, multiple pieces about the end of the world, an animated accompaniment to an avante-jazz interpretation of Octavia Butler's sci-fi, and an abstracted exploration of the relationship between outer space and inner emotions. Her catalog is overflowing with works that blend science fiction, experimental cinema, and a deep philosophical bent.

In that light, Gather + Listen is a bit of an outlier. Instead of cosmic narratives, it focuses on small gestures. Instead of grand narratives, it feels embodied—an attempt to capture a sensation more than create a conceptual framework. A collage of grinning mouths, dancing feet, and reaching hands, it seems fascinated with small movements, repetition and layered patterns. The body parts are isolated, floating freely through the frame. Sometimes they're synchronized, sometimes offset, resulting in a hypnotic dance of unattached limbs.

Bodunrin's synopsis says the film "focuses on the subtle movements and rhythms that unconsciously happen at an owambe, a Nigerian street party," and there's something of a sketchbook quality to the gestures in Gather + Listen. But the sketchbook has been run through a kaleidoscope—a toy that highlights just how much beauty our brains find in unexpected symmetry. Beyond the hands and feet, Bondunrin plays with colourful backdrops, their bright shapes and shifting patterns adding even more vibrancy to the film's rhythms.

The film's title consists of the two most necessary actions to promote connection—coming together, and paying attention to what others are saying and doing. Gather + Listen highlights just how little it takes for a gathering to become a celebration. A subtle movement repeated and shared, and suddenly a gesture becomes a dance, a ripple of joy spreading outward for all who choose to join in.

Gather + Listen

dir: Adebukola Buki Bodunrin

syn: Gather + Listen is an animation that focuses on the subtle movements and rhythms that unconsciously happen at an owambe, a Nigerian street party. As people come together in joy, their hearts begin to beat to the same rhythm, as if united in happiness.

2014