Anna Ginsburg and Melissa Kitty Jarram. UGLY, 2019. 1 minute, 41 seconds. Poem and VO by Warsan Shire. Courtesy of the artists.
A collaboration between director Anna Ginsburg, artist Melissa Kitty Jarram, and poet Warsan Shire, UGLY is an animation that dazzles in both its uninterrupted visual flow and powerful rhetoric.
Ginsburg, born and raised in London, is a filmmaker with a diverse range of talents; Jarram is a graduate of the illustration/animation course at Kingston University. Released as part of Refugee Week (June 12-23) at a London event centered on the integration of refugees into the creative industry, Ginsburg and Jarram’s joint creation is an animated narration of UGLY, a poem written by Warsan Shire. Shire is a British writer and poet who was born to Somali parents in Kenya, moving to the UK at the age of one (she is perhaps most well known for her work on Beyonce’s Lemonade).
In UGLY, the united talents of this group construct a pastel-hued alien planet
– where tears become rivers, a hip juts into a mountain, and the manifestation of the feminine becomes geographic. Although short in duration, the work demonstrated tremendous labor—indeed, the organizers of the film’s premier screening noted that “Each shot started with a beautiful original painting [in gouache] by Melissa, painstakingly recreated digitally, each frame taking up to an hour.” With this in mind, and with Shire’s voice unifying everything seamlessly, UGLY is a powerful work that speaks to loss, turmoil and intergenerational trauma, but also to the potentiality of the uncomfortable, the different, the ugly.