Ermina Takenova

A Song of Resistance

Concept illustrations created for a documentary titled A Song of Resistance directed by Bazla Samin. The film tells the story of Yerbakyt Otarbay, a Kazakh survivor of the Chinese “re-education” camps in Xinjiang.

Yerbakyt was born in Xinjiang and moved to Kazakhstan in 2014, he was detained in 2017 when visiting China. Yerbakyt was arrested without committing any crimes, separated from his family, subjected to inhumane treatment, torture and forced labour. The harrowing experience left both his physical and mental health damaged. Yerbakyt spent almost 2 years incarcerated in various detention centres and prison camps. A Song of Resistance shares his experience in a clothing factory camp. When Yerbakyt was eventually released in May 2019, his youngest son didn’t recognise him.

For the creation of this film, I had an opportunity to meet Yerbakyt in person and sketch along to him sharing his story. I then created the concept illustrations for the animated sequences in the film based on the notes and sketches. Yerbakyt gave his testimony at the Uyghur Tribunal in London and his experience in one of the camps was featured in the New Yorker animated documentary titled Reeducated. Yerbakyt is incredibly brave for spreading the information on the injustices that happened to him and are still happening to many more innocent people.

Directed by Bazla Samin
Concept Illustrations by Ermina Takenova
Animated by Umang Mankodiya and Olivia Tew
A Song of Resistance is currently in a festival circuit and not available to watch online yet