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A six-day experience in Portugal, September 19th - 24th 2022.

I had always wanted to go to THU (Trojan Horse Was a Unicorn) conference for the longest time. I would see the highlight reels online and wish that one day it would happen. Even before the pandemic year, I had set a goal to save up and make the trip. Business wasn’t that good that year so I skipped it. Little did I know that there was an opportunity on the horizon.


When the call to apply for the trip came via the Association of Animation Artistes Kenya, A3K Whatsapp group, I did not hesitate to share my portfolio and details. I had this feeling that it would go through.

I was shocked and excited upon getting the news that I got picked and that the trip was fully catered for in terms of food, drinks, and accommodation.

It is only after having the first video contact with THU and KING representatives affirming the trip that I was convinced it was happening. They called to explain what to expect at the event as an attendee and give a rundown of events.

This excitement was however short-lived as there was the challenge of getting a visa in a short amount of time (2 weeks). I deliberated on it and asked assistance from A3K who reached out to the Kenya Film Commission (KFC), the french embassy as well as the Greek embassy – who give VISAS to Portugal. 

KFC was very instrumental in preparing and sending a letter to the embassy asking for assistance in the provision of the VISA.I got the appointment and soon after the visa as well as the plane tickets on time. I was all set to make the trip.

I was very anxious in the beginning as everything was on a tightrope. It was my first trip out of the continent and this was scary and exciting at the same time. Unreal even.Through the 13hr flight, I barely slept as the anxiety was replaced with excitement.

I was paired with Lydia, a 3D animator and game developer from Kenya who had won the previous year’s Sony talent league competition and had developed a hybrid game and music experience that explored Kenyan culture and spirituality.

On arrival, we met other creatives and it was a unique experience to interact with them and I was optimistic about the activities of the next 7 days.

The culture shock was that everything seemed to work and at an efficiency that was foreign to me. This was inspiring and raised my curiosity as to how big a world we have and the different cultures and experiences each of us has.

We also linked up with a team from Uganda, Barbara, and Emmanuel.

After a wait at the airport, we took a shuttle to board a ferry at Setubal to the location of the conference center, Troia – which was a mix of a hotel and a conventional center. Sort of a mix of  Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) and the Hilton but in a coastal town like Mombasa

The ferry was cool and didn’t bob up and down – another culture shock

We met Karin and her husband. Karin is a founding member of Imaginary Forces who asked us what we were looking forward to learning and getting from the event as well as learning more about where we’re from and what the industry is like there.

On arrival at the center, we were given our badges. The event activities and information were presented in a downloadable app. So you could schedule which activities you wanted to participate in – they were many and overlapping! Which made this challenging to do as all of them were interesting.

The activities were distributed into creative talks, group portfolio reviews with a mentor, and social activities like video and card gaming, dances, and painting a mural among others. It also had a feature where one could scan a badge of someone you just met. You would then get to read their bio, and see their portfolio as well as social media handles. I found this a genius way of using technology to manage socialization. The total number of participants was over 612 from 52 countries, guided by 46 mentors. 

Kelvin Shani doing his creative magic on a drawing tablet

We were then shown to our rooms. We shared a 2 bedroom hotel suite with Emmanuel and Bertil an artist from Ghana but currently studying animation at Goblins in France.

I blacked out till the next morning. Jetlag, anxiety and excitement had taken over. The next two days were career days where one could go to previously booked interviews with game and animation studios.

The portfolio review was done by Wooga a gaming company from Germany and King Games, the makers of Candy Crush. They were very friendly and gave me tips on how to properly transition to a game concept artist. I got to understand the difference between an illustrator and concept artist. In that, a concept artist delves deeper into design and explores more with different angles, treatments and ideas before settling to one. They also present these ideas to the rest of the team as this will help them understand better the process and train of thought to better model or light the environment, prop or character designed. I got a bag of branded stuff which was also cool. They mentioned that I can always reach out to them if I need assistance or advise on my work. I also got an online course and a book to look for to assist in learning more about concept art.


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