Did you see that Khuli Chana video? We talked to Sunu, the man behind the amazing visuals on One Source, about Afrofuturism, pan-African collaboration and getting Ghanaian street artist Moh Awudu and Kenyan digital artist and photographer Osborne Macharia involved in the star-studded project.
Tell us about yourself: where did you grow up?
I was born in Mpopoma township in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
How did you get into video directing?
Since I was a child, I always had this dream of being in film. I took a long circuitous route to get there. I spent many of my varsity days either on a rugby field or in front of the camera as an actor, something I’m still passionate about. I then spent a few years working as a banker. I’ve always written stories and read a lot, so writing and acting were my escape into the world of make believe. Eventually, I made the leap, left the corporate world and started as a PA and worked my way up to directing.
How has living in LA for nearly a decade informed your view of Africa?
The move to LA was absolutely critical to me believing that anything was possible. A lot of people laughed and made fun of me when I talked about going to Hollywood. I did it. It was the best of times and the hardest of times. The most important thing is that it gave me a perspective of myself and what I was capable of, but also that my Africanness is what made me unique in a world that tries to squash you into a box.
I came back with a fire and passion to really dig deep into Africa, into who we are as Africans and our unique spice, attitude to life and how we don’t have to sit shotgun or play second fiddle to the West.
I came back with a fire and passion to really dig deep into Africa, into who we are as Africans and our unique spice, attitude to life and how we don’t have to sit shotgun or play second fiddle to the West. We really can blaze our own path without trying to emulate anyone else. I learnt a lot of that from how Americans view themselves and their passion for their country and self-belief. I believe it can be done without arrogance or grandstanding.
How did the video for One Source come about?
Native VML called. They had the idea of Khuli collaborating with other African artists and also doing one music video. I then broke down the project and felt doing four episodes of watching the collaboration unfold was the right way to go, and then doing a music video that encapsulates this whole collaboration bringing in all the artists onto one track. The theme of fire was something I always wanted to do and I have a folder of images that inspire me that I’ve had for years and continually update. This was the perfect opportunity to bring most of those ideas to life.
No ego, no fuss, no frills, no drama; just a passionate desire to push the boundaries and do something to put a spotlight on Africa in a positive way
Native VML’s Ryan McManus and I spoke late into the night on the first day we got into Ghana and the idea of turning the flames developed organically as we both felt the blue flame is the hottest flame and representative of the creative explosion burning across the continent. We felt the red flame is destructive and what people expect from Africa so we wanted to flip that and make it something positive to capture the passion of Africans in a positive light. When Jason Xenopulous arrived half way through the shoot, he added more fuel to the fire and encouraged me to push the boundaries further and further. The collaboration was as pure as one could ever dream.
Did you work with Khuli Chana?
None of this would have been possible without Khuli. He was game for everything and jumped onto every crazy idea I threw at him. His work ethic is relentless and nothing was ever too much. He’s honestly one of the most free-thinking and passionate collaborators I’ve ever worked with and he made it easy for me to express myself. No ego, no fuss, no frills, no drama; just a passionate desire to push the boundaries and do something to put a spotlight on Africa in a positive way.
How did you get Osborne Macharia and Moh Awudu involved?
I had images of both Osborne and Moh in my secret inspirational folder. When Native approached me, I threw the idea out that Khuli should not just collaborate with musicians but also artists that inspire their music. It brought an amazing visual language to mix with the music that Khuli and the musicians were creating, making it a perfect synergy.
I’ve got a few more commercials to shoot. Next year I’ll finally be shooting my passion movie project, Riding With Sugar, which I’ve been trying to make for the last 14 years. It looks like all the pieces are finally falling into place. I feel the One Source project was the perfect platform to help me experiment on some of the visual language I’ve always envisioned for Riding With Sugar.