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“I am a storyteller,”

If you go on any of the art-generating AI engines, Disco Diffusion, Stable Diffusion, MidJourney etc., and insert similar prompts, the odds are that you won’t get the same result as the ace film director and editor Malik Afegbua.

This is because his process is more judicious and tedious than the average artificial intelligence user’s. Malik Afegbua’s projects are already redefining the African narrative, thanks to his skills in using Artificial intelligence tools and his creativity as an artist.

How does it work?

First, he takes what the AI offers, dumps it on Photoshop, and makes some variations. Then he throws that back to the AI. And then he makes more variations and then even more. His communication with the AI continues until he gets his desired image.

In the past few months, he has risen to critical acclaim for the hyper-realistic result he generates from AI, so much so that the BBC could only best describe Malik Afegbua as an “AI artist.”

“I am a storyteller,” he said in an exclusive interview with Technext. “The backbone for everything I do is storytelling.”

Even though the collection that propelled him into the mainstream–the Elder Series: Fashion Show For Seniors– was released last year, he said that his journey with AI had been six years in the making.

As CEO of the film studio Slick City, his day-to-day activities include looking for new ways to tell stories. That led him to AI.

“I always do research to find innovative ways,” he said. “6 years ago, I started working with virtual reality. I was looking for more innovative ways to tell stories and that led me to artificial intelligence two years ago. I studied how some people were using AI to create generative artwork, and installation and I started to do more work around that.”

Now he is adept at how the engines work, churning out tons of AI-generated images that continue to leave the internet agog. Using his experience as a filmmaker, he has been able to use AI to create different images.

“When you put in these prompts, it gives you back random things. But I didn’t want that to happen. So I first thought about what I wanted to do. I thought about the world, and the kind of characters.

What those characters are doing. What are they wearing? What’s the interruption? What kind of composition will we have in that type of setting. What’s the lighting? Because I have a filmmaking background, so I was always putting that into everything I do” Malik Afegbua explained.

What the collections are about

With his viral collection, Fashion Show For Seniors, from his Elder Series project, Malik Afegbua said the idea behind it was to challenge the perception of the elderly in society and push back on the narrative of what is acceptable for older people. To achieve this, he put them on the runway.

“The Elders Series is putting people in situations where you will normally not see them,” he said.

“There is a perception that we have about the elderly in society and that it’s marginalised. What I wanted to do is shine a light that these people actually still exist. And see them in a fashion show, at the beach, doing all of that.”

Malik Afegbua

Malik Afegbua’s other collection, Ngochola, draws inspiration from the Marvel Studios flick Black Panther’s Wakanda soldiers. He tells the story of a fictional 250 thousand-year-old civilisation of people of African descent, advanced and intelligent, that has, over the years, learnt to communicate with machines.

“Myself and my wife, we write films and those films that we write are very ambitious, in terms of how to produce them. We need massive studios. I needed a way to reimagine some of these ideas. That’s where that came from,” he said of the inspiration behind the Ngochola collection.

The collection is part of a global movement that has held the frontline in a battle of ideas to challenge the stereotypes about Africa in an age where black people in Africa and abroad are beginning to join forces.

The goal with Ngochola is to bring the collection to life as a movie. “So if you’re thinking Hollywood and the kind of set they build, and the kind of costume they have, that’s what you should think about when it comes to Ngochola,” he conveyed.

Already, his work has garnered the attention of some Hollywood players. The costume designer for Black Panther films, Ruth Carter, already signed on, calling his work “so dope.”

While he agrees that it felt good, Malik Afegbua says that he isn’t in the business of seeking external validation.