We had the good fortune of connecting with Kofi Gwira and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kofi, why did you pursue a creative career?
When I was a child, my mom used to leave me in front of the tv when she had errands and other things to do around the house. She used to say that the tv was my babysitter. I’d be glued to my seat watching the Looney Toons, Tom and Jerry, and whatever other cartoons were on. I was entertained by how these characters got into situations that were beyond my imagination. Tell me watching Wile E Cayote running over a cliff but only falling when he realized where he was isn’t entertaining! From watching all those cartoons, I realized that I wanted to be a part of the process that produced them. I did not know what exactly but just the thought of being there was enough to spark the passion and love I have for the medium. In 4th grade, I used to tell stories to the class when our teacher was marking tests and we had nothing to do. I told these funny stories that were similar to that of the Looney Toons. These characters getting into crazy situations and were faced with challenges and obstacles that they needed to solve. I did not think much of it at the time because I thought there were more interesting roles in different areas of the field. I wanted to be a Character Designer because I loved how every aspect of a character’s look gave a strong sense of personality and literal character. Then I wanted to be an Animator because I wanted to bring those characters to life. Unfortunately, I was not a very strong drawer, but I was good with computers, so I shifted to the 3D space and tried my hands at Modeling, and Rigging. I got the furthest here and I currently freelance as an environment artist. As much as how those roles sounded interesting, they weren’t the areas that my spark burned brightly. I did some self-reflection and realized that my 4th grade story telling days were where I felt most creative. I was reminded that creatives are problem solvers and I especially wanted to problem solve in storytelling. Taking a character or two and telling their story through conflict and experiences that leads to their overall character development and brings them closer to achieving their goals.
To bring it all home, I pursued a creative career because I felt and still feel that there are so many stories that have yet to be told and I want to be the one to tell them to entertain but also to teach. Even though the characters are fictional, and their situations can at times be larger than life, they use the same principles and problem-solving skills that we would use in our everyday lives to get though them one problem at a time. When people see those stories, they create parallels between the character and themselves and try to apply the same mindset and attitudes that their favorite character has. Just like the characters I wish to write, we are going through our own individual journeys full of trials and errors and obstacles, but we are trying to solve each problem one at a time and those experiences need to be shared and enjoyed.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I had the tragic pleasure of graduating and being thrust into the work force at the peak of lockdown in 2020. Every place I applied to or considered was either furloughing, laying off several employees, or were figuring out how to transition into work from home without losing too much productive steam. Just like everyone else I was uncertain. But I was hopeful. I thought to myself that I would not have this much free time again till I retired so I might as well take advantage of it. In college I realized I had a knack for 3D art. I picked it up quickly and understood the concepts fairly easily. I’ve always felt like I was a technical person so it was great that I could apply that technicality in art. I had the most fun rigging models for animation. Up until I found a variety of plugins that automated the process. I then shifted to the other thing I was good at and that was modeling. Modeling a cube into a tree or a car or a building was fun, so I decided to develop that. I spent lockdown honing my skills by doing tutorials, noting tips and tricks, finding shortcuts, and just practicing. I took the modeling a step further and used the models I made to set up scenes and environments. I actually based my thesis on a series of environments. I love the concept of “show not tell” so I loved to place specific objects in places to try and tell a story about the space and the kind of people that occupied it. My first freelance project gave me the opportunity to showcase that. The client loved all the choices I made and even described it as if I went in his head and pulled the scene right out. Feedback like that motivated me to continue developing my skills in that direction.
I will say that I don’t feel like I am at the point where my art is distinct enough for people to say “hey, that looks like something Kofi would do” but I am working towards defining it and showing what really makes it mine. I want people to see my interests from obscure sources and random facts come together to tell a story.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I recently moved back to the states from Ghana. I currently live in VA which I visited often because of family, and I am a little torn between the two. Ghana has become a great hotspot in the last couple of years and we have a huge influx of tourists in December. The night life is very “vibely”, where we party from 10pm to 5am. We start the night at Labone bar for the pregame and to chat with friends, then we head out to Alley bar to warm up to some Afrobeats and Amapiano music. We then close the night at Frontback where we continue the vibe and dance till we can’t stand anymore. During the daytime there are a large variety of restaurants we would visit depending on what we are craving. Rose Garden for brunch, roadside fried yam and kebab for a light but hot snack, and Shogun for dinner. We also can’t visit Ghana without visiting popular beaches like Labadi beach or Bojo beach. Popular attractions like the Legon botanical gardens, Kakum national park, the Elmina castle, and Boti falls are also a must see to experience Ghana’s nature scene as well as our rich history. Virginia is a lot more laid back. I live in the suburbs so there are lots of little restaurants, playgrounds, and parks. You are never too old to sit on the swing and they are the best places to have long conversations about life and where we are headed with my best friend. For a bit of adventure outside the calm settings we would definitely go to D.C. I’d show them the National Mall with all the monuments, and we’d be traveling in style on the Lime or Lyft bikes and scooters. We would pop into a couple of museums like the Smithsonian and then grab food at several of D.C.’s cafes and restaurants. There are no wrong choices in D.C.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Biggest thanks go to my parents for supporting me in my career choices and path. Coming from Ghana, art isn’t the most supported field and is usually looked down upon and discouraged. Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer, and now IT are the only professions most people make their children do, and I am especially thankful and grateful that my parents supported and encouraged me to be the artist I aspire to be. Big thanks to immediate family members and friends for encouraging me, being excited for my work, honest criticisms, and sharing my work and success with everyone they know.
A big shoutout goes to Social Ghana and Animax FYB studios for giving me the opportunity to grow and develop as an artist by giving me the opportunity to work with them, learn from them, and understand what it takes to be an artist in the industry and in our home country. They were my first creative internships and job and provided me with the tools and growing experiences to continue to develop as an artist. They also exposed me to the challenges artist in Ghana face and provided insights on how to overcome them and excel.

Website: https://kdgartwork.wixsite.com/kdg-3dartwork

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kofi-donald-gwira/

Other: https://www.instagram.com/socialghana/ https://www.instagram.com/animaxfyb/

Image Credits
NFA (National Film Authority) Social Ghana Animax FYB

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