Girmit: Multi-dimensional Heirlooms

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Nutkhut’s Associate Virtual Reality Artist – Lorna Inman

Lorna Inman is a Virtual Reality Artist and an Associate Artist at Nutkhut, creating bespoke hand-painted VR experiences and videos. Lorna has a background in Art & Design, taking an interest in traditional, digital, 3D and immersive arts whilst studying at the University of Leeds. Since graduating in 2019, she has created a number of VR artworks for companies including Google, Virtual Reality Experiences, and Ninety One and has been working with Nutkhut since August 2020. Lorna began working with VR and 3D environment design after an interest in researching the potential positive emotional outcomes of the feeling of presence in an immersive environment sparked an inspiration for her artistic practice. Building on this in her current work, she, Nutkhut, and PlayLa.bZ are working together to use multi-dimensional arts to enable people of all ages to learn about objects of culture and heritage and understand the history of indentured labour.

Alongside a huge team of creatives, academics, and technologists, Nutkhut has created a 360-degree immersive short film titled Girmit – an immersive story of indentured labour. Girmit was released at Mozilla Festival 2021, featuring a live Q&A with the team and it was the ‘Pick of the Festival’ by the Festival Director Sarah Allen. Girmit uses three-dimensional, immersive virtual reality art to uncover the history of indentured labour. Using Tilt Brush to paint huge storytelling scenes in 360 degrees, Lorna has created five world-sized 3D environments and six Girmit Heirloom 3D models that retell the oral histories gathered from descendants of indentured labourers.

girmit poster image

Girmit – Multi-dimensional heirlooms

The six Girmit Heirloom 3D objects give insight into the lives of the Girmitiyas, each one describing an aspect of their journey. They retell the oral histories and memories that have been passed down the generations from indentured labourers, presented as 3D sketches, to share the side of the story of indentured labour that is largely untold—the story of the lives and livelihoods of over 60,000 people who travelled from India to Fiji under the indenture system. These models aim to encourage viewers to dig deeper into this history of the indenture system that was put in place by the British Empire shortly after the abolishment of slavery, to learn its importance, longevity, and continued influence. The Girmit team have created these 3D models to bring to light the stories and lives of those who deserve to be remembered.

Virtual Reality design tools and workflow

Lorna has painted each of these models by hand using Tilt Brush, a software that allows her to paint in virtual space by physically building up the digital objects in front of her eyes using a VR headset. Sketchfab has been a great place to easily share these 3D models directly out of Tilt Brush and it allowed her to edit, re-light, and place the objects once uploaded to present them in the desired way. For anyone hoping to design and develop 3D VR models, Tilt Brush has recently gone open-source, meaning it is available for anyone to use for free, learn how the software was created and build upon it if they wish. Exciting developments are being made in the area of VR design and 3D art creation tools and virtual design workflows are becoming increasingly accessible and easy to use alongside the Sketchfab platform.

3D Culture, history, and heritage

The ability to share digital 3D objects and places, whether painted as an interpretation or 3D scanned images, offers a new way to learn about culture, history, and heritage. Especially during pandemic-mandated lockdowns—with restrictions on travel and museum, gallery, and heritage site visitation—learning about historical objects by interacting with them in 360 degrees enables people to delve into history in a virtually physically engaging way.

Girmit was a project that came to light as a direct result of the pandemic, as it evolved from an idea for a ‘real life’ event to something that could be enjoyed in a similarly engaging way, except solely online. Girmit: An Immersive Story of Indentured Labour and Girmit: Multi-dimensional Heirlooms enabled Nutkhut and PlayLa.bZ to convey the intended feeling of atmosphere, presence and tangibility of the places, people, and objects. However, the use of 3D and VR also offered more to the learning experience, going beyond being just a replacement for a physical exhibit. The whole project became far more accessible, with a potentially much wider audience able to experience it, and ultimately the digital nature of the project extended its life. Imaginably, now and more so in the future, 3D and VR could be applied within many heritage organisations to add an extra layer of explorable information that would enhance online engagement and provide new and unique methods of learning about history and representing places or objects of historical value and importance.

Lorna’s Website / Lorna on Twitter / Lorna on Instagram

About the author

Lorna Inman

Lorna Inman is a Virtual Reality Artist creating bespoke, hand-painted VR experiences and videos. Specialising in storytelling through 3D environment design.

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