Annecy’s Women in Animation World Summit: Draw Us A Better Universe, Keynote Speaker Dr. Amma Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin Urges

Amma Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin, TED Fellow. TED2019:
Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

The VP of creative affairs from the team consulting with Warner Bros. Television Group on equity, inclusion, and social justice has urged animators to “draw our connection to [the] ideal reality of diversity…inclusion…equity”

Delivering the keynote speech at Women in Animation’s (WIA) World Summit, which takes place annually at the Annecy Animation Festival, Dr. Amma Y. Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin, addressed a virtual audience in her pre-recorded speech, entitled “Stories Matter” – which dropped on Monday morning local time.

“Imagine a world of diversity, a world of full inclusivity, a world in which everyone from every walk of life can show up as their full selves, with their full gifts and talents,” Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin said.

“Imagine your conference room, creative space, [and] rehearsal studio. Imagine a space in which everyone has a full appreciation of their uniqueness and can see how they are connected… as storytellers, producers, animators and decision makers – what would that world feel like, what would it smell like..?

“The process of getting to that world is in the power of animation,” Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin added, arguing that “All of you are in the literal business of drawing entire universes into existence – can’t you draw this world for us?

“Pencil to paper, pixel to pixel, it takes courage and imagination to draw something into existence that hasn’t been seen before,” she urged.

Dr Amma is VP of creative affairs at JusticeRX, a team that is partnering with Warner Bros. Television Group to develop original programming and to consult with studio and show creators to promote equity, inclusion, and social justice.

Addressing the business case for diversity, the WIA Summit’s key theme this year, Dr Amma also said that “investing in people” and in what they say they need to thrive as collaborators makes for good business.

“We think inclusion is simply about adding something or inviting someone who has previously been excluded from our preexisting environment…[But] what if our usual way of doing things is not [the ideal way of doing things]? How can we shift from ‘I want to see what you bring to my preexisting table…’ to [asking] ‘I want to see what you and I can create together’?”

She concluded: “The business case for diversity understands that the whole world wants to hear the truest parts of their own story – and someone else’s story. And just by sheer numbers alone it would be good financial business to reach more people in the world with their stories.”

To do so means acknowledging: “I don’t know the whole world by myself” and that the industry needs people from all around the world to tell their own stories.

Dr. Amma also revealed that she was a keen proponent of the industry listening to the voices of the most vulnerable and following the recommendations of recent industry data reports, like the McKinsey & Company March 2021 report.

She pointed to initiatives occurring in adjacent creative industries as offering possible “concrete ways to make changes right now in how we collaborate with each other,” citing the social contract created by a coalition of U.S.-based theater workers “We See You, White American Theater.”

The U.S. theater industry coalition’s 29-page document, issued last July, suggested mandatory and ongoing EDI + Anti-Racism training at all levels, imposing term limits for theatre industry leaders and a requirement that at least half the members of casts and creative teams be made up of people of color.