Tobago tech wizard blazing a trail – TT Newsday

Black Panther designer wins Young Guns award

Tobagonian Sekani Solomon -
Tobagonian Sekani Solomon –

Sekani Solomon is a down-to-earth, quirky, driven Tobagonian living in New York City. He is a senior motion designer currently working at Cash App in Apple.

He has now pivoted to working full-time in the tech area and earlier this month he told Newsday, in five years he sees himself as being an instrumental player in design in one of the largest financial technology companies in the world.

Solomon first made his debut in the Black Panther movie in 2017, after he was a part of the production team responsible for building the movie’s main title sequence. Before this he designed commercial projects for Dolby, Apple, Facebook, GE, IBM and Disney.

His latest accomplishment was becoming the first creative from TT, out of 500 entries from 45 countries, to be inducted in a Young Guns 17, hosted by The One Club for Creativity in New York. The One Club for Creativity is for people excelling in film, animation, graphic design to name a few.

The entries are narrowed down to 89 and from this, 28 winners are selected and awarded based on the merits of their work.

Young Guns competition is a yearly competition for creative talents under the age of 30.

He told Newsday wining a Young Guns award is no surprise to him because of the time and effort invested into his skill.

“I was so happy that the time and effort I’ve put in is being recognised in this way,” he said

On The One Club’s website, under Sekani’s entry, principal and founder Gordon Jee said he enjoyed judging the work all of the animators who entered this year but “Sekani’s work stood out in ways that made me excited when I viewed his entries.”

He commended Solomon’s brilliant, clear and effortlessly use of textures and “the strength of the silhouettes chosen to capture maximum drama.”

Solomon told Newsday he came from humble beginnings growing up in Hope, Tobago. “Like any kid I loved being outside, riding bikes and playing in nature.”

Solomon always had a creative side as he would draw often and make his own toys using cardboard and tape. For him, spending time by the river was also another activity he loved doing.

Many people aren’t aware that he also has a love for music and can play the guitar and drums. He also enjoys snowboarding and skimboarding (a type of surfing) in his free time.

At 15 years he was introduced to photoshop and he began dabbling in creativity.

“For me, it was a natural progression from drawing on paper. Naturally at that age, I was terrible at it. I decided to leave the arts behind to focus on sciences which, alongside law and business, is typically reinforced as one of the few pathways to success, and rediscovered it later on when I was 18 and fell in love.”

This was the beginning of journey that changed his life in many ways he told Newsday.

But before he found his place in the creative industry, he told Newsday he moved away from the arts because he though it wasn’t feasible and sustainable. “Fortunately for me I was quite wrong. I always felt like I wanted to do something creative.

“I wanted to be a software engineer, even though I was doing graphic arts and motion a lot in my free time. Eventually I looked for colleges that had both graphic design and software engineering courses before deciding to fully do graphic design. I then decided I wanted to do motion design.”

He said his talent began to get noticed and awards started coming in.

“I worked on the main titles for a show called Manhattan, for which we won the Outstanding Main Title Emmy at the 67th primetime Emmy Awards.”

He also worked on the main titles for Vinyl on HBO (directed by Martin Scorsace) which was nominated for an Outstanding Main Title at the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards. Solomon was also involved in shows like Godless and Gypsy on Netflix.

When asked for his thoughts on the animation and film industry in Tobago, Solomon said he sees potential for growth. “I think the challenge is bringing awareness to the value of design and educating clients of the process, cost and benefits of high-end design.

“Tobago’s image can benefit from visual products such as good branding, website, digital content and commercials. All this helps in telling the story of Tobago and improving how it looks to the world.” He hopes to see more local productions from young people in Tobago.

Solomon believes consistency was the key to his success and now advises those in in the creative industry be diligent, hard working and to understand that the field goes beyond TT. “That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave. You need to develop your skills to compete internationally, there’s a lot of competition so you need to be among the best. Find mentors and other artists that are in the position you want to be in and soak up as much information as possible; networking is a huge factor in this industry.”

Solomon encouraged the THA to invest more in digital arts and design education and awareness.

“I don’t think the value of design is yet fully understood in Trinidad and Tobago. There is a reason companies collectively spend billions of dollars yearly on design, advertising and branding. We need to help create tangible skills. In my opinion, our education system depends way too much on testing, which isn’t an accurate way to determine what tangible way someone can contribute.

“In addition, we are only getting more and more screens which mean more demand to put things on them, so the more people capable of having those skills, the more foreign revenue we can earn. Nothing can be done if we don’t have the skillset.”