When Kaho Yoshida first moved to Canada she was only 15 years old. She couldn’t speak a lick of English and it was during that long-lost time before Google translate. Rather than solely seeing art as defined by its material outcome, she loved it because it became the only way that she could express herself in this new world. Kaho went on to study animation at Emily Carr University, specialising in stop motion. But faced with the harsh reality of minimal prospects for stop motion artists, she taught herself After Effects and Photoshop cel animation. “My first love is stop motion, but I also love 2D and found that mixing the two helps cover the limitations of stop motion while still creating something with a lot of texture and charm,” she tells It’s Nice That.
Kaho’s story should’ve been one of uninterrupted creative exploration and the normal ups and downs that come with being human. Not quite. Kaho was subsequently subject to the even harsher reality of being an Asian woman in western society. “I was expected to be sexual in a way that meets the stereotype, while my needs and desires were dismissed and ignored,” she explains. Unwilling to be boxed, Kaho began working on her short animated film Tongue. “First and foremost,” she states, “I would like people who share the experience of being fetishised to feel seen and validated.” This being an unfortunately wide but unrecognised pool, Kaho set out to create a visceral and shocking piece of work. The mixed media project uses stop motion and 3D cel animation to bring the idea to life. “There is magic in stop motion that lets the viewers connect with the animation immediately.”
Having learnt English as a teenager, Kaho retained some of her original accent. But she found that her tongue (her accent) had always prevented her from “accessing certain power and safety”. She adds: “As soon as I open my mouth, my tongue betrays me and reveals my otherness.” It’s for this reason that the tongue became the object of choice to centre the narrative around. An apt choice, given the squirmy nature of the tongue – made even more visceral by sound designer Ana Roman. Kaho wanted the aesthetic of the film to be loud, visceral and un-ignorable, getting under the skin of the viewer. As for the colour palette, she wanted it to be “vibrant and feminine with a bit of darkness to it” but cinematic enough to “still keep the contrast between the tongue being a real object and the characters being the flat illustration".
While the tongue centres the narrative, it was humour, absurdity and authenticity that became Kaho’s weapons of choice. “I have learned that the more authentic and vulnerable I am, the more people seem to connect with my stories,” she says. The film was originally penned as a stop motion soft porn film, but Kaho decided that it had the potential to act as a release valve for the relatable frustrations of so many Asian women and femmes. It needed more bite. After an iteration as a crime thriller, she settled on a narrative following an unforgiving main character as she reclaims the tongue, her time and her own sexuality. Amid the dearth of cultural artefacts that still proliferate these stereotypes, Kaho's film is a shining light that “celebrates women's sexuality and beauty".
GalleryKaho Yoshida: Tongue (Copyright © Kaho Yoshida, 2022)
Kaho Yoshida: Tongue (Copyright © KahoYoshida, 2022)
About the Author
Roz (he/him) joined It’s Nice That as editorial assistant in October 2022 after graduating from Magazine Journalism and Publishing at London College of Communication. He’s particularly interested in publications, archives and multi-media design. Feel free to get in contact with Roz about ideas you may have for stories from the Global South.