Seneca College teacher sparks creation of IKEA monkey t-shirt and video game

The story of Darwin the IKEA monkey, which caught the city’s attention for a spell last month, has earned new life with the release of an online video game and T-shirt design. Bloorcourt area resident Barnabas Wornoff, who teaches at Seneca College, came up with the idea of creating the game and the T-shirts after discussing Darwin’s saga with friends. Darwin, a Japanese macaque, first came to the public’s attention when he was spotted wandering around an IKEA parking lot in North York in a tiny shearling coat on Dec. 9. When Toronto Animal Services removed the monkey from the custody of his owner, Yasmin Nakhuda, Nakhuda went on to protest. Wornoff said he was talking to his friend JJ Dukharan, a designer, about the story when it first broke and, after some deliberation, decided to create some t-shirts and make them available to the public. “I thought it was really interesting and hilarious that there was this monkey in a little coat in a parking lot,” he said. “I have a friend from Seneca who designs shirts and I told him we should make shirts about this whole meme that started up.” One of Wornoff’s students, Daniel Whiffing, is a computer programmer and created the video game which sees Darwin navigating a parking lot and dodging shoppers, shopping carts and other obstacles while collecting the pieces necessary to build an IKEA book case. “I didn’t know it was going to turn into what it has,” Wornoff said. “It just sort of flowed naturally and everybody I talked to was excited to be part of it.” The website (www.ikeamonkeyshirt.com) has already garnered attention and has surged in popularity as word has spread. While many would think Darwin’s story would be strictly a Toronto phenomenon, that has not been the case. “We’ve had hits from as far away as Australia and we’re really big right now in Budapest for some reason,” Wornoff said. “We’ve had hits from Spain, the UK and California, and Winnipeg has actually ordered the most shirts.” While the shirt and the game are tongue-in-cheek, Wornoff has actually spoken with Nakhuda, who enjoyed the game and even proposed a spin-off. “She said she wished we would make one with the monkey breaking out of jail and getting back to its mommy,” he said. While public opinion was divided on whether Darwin should be returned to Nakhuda, Wornoff chose not to take a firm stand. “It’s sad that they took (Darwin) away from her because he’s like a close family member at this point,” he said. “I heard that once the monkey hits puberty it could get dangerous, but people have monkeys as pets in other countries so I don’t know whose place it is to say she can’t keep one here.” While Wornoff first conceived of the idea to create Darwin T-shirts and a video game, he brainstormed both the game and T-shirt with others and is sharing the wealth with the other contributors, who are primarily students and recent graduates. The Darwin T-shirts, which include a graphic of a monkey in a shearling coat with a thought bubble containing an Allen key, are available on the website and at the Cardinal Skate Shop at 940 Bloor Street West.;