The African animation industry has slowly been gaining traction and recognition not just within the continent but globally as well. For a long time, when the subject of African animation came up, we mostly would think back to animal cartoons in a jungle and of course featuring the classic king of the jungle tale.
Things are different. Now we see a wide range of African animation films for all age groups, in various vernacular languages, addressing both local and international issues.
A number of things have contributed to this:
Over the past few decades, Africans have continued to own their spaces politically, economically and socially in the global arena. We are now more than ever keen on telling our stories, giving our own perspectives, coming up with solutions to our problems as well as challenging societal norms.
African creatives are using animation to address real life issues that may be deemed as difficult or controversial such as racism, colourism, corruption, poor governance, inequality, gender-based violence and so on. Take for instance the film Yellow Fever by Ng’endo Mukii which highlights the prevalent use of bleaching creams in Nairobi.
They make topics that people would otherwise shy away from, a little bit more palatable.
What’s even more fascinating is how such animated films can be tailor made to suit different audiences in terms of age, language and generally be more representative of the target group in mind.
Creatives are now using animated films to tell, preserve and pass on African stories that would otherwise be left untold and eventually completely lost.
2. Collaboration and Networking.
The Annecy Festival that took place early June, hosted a panel discussing the African Animation Industry which featured our CEO & Co-Founder Jeff Schon, Bett Sulty Johnson who is VP Content Distribution at Trace Company, Ibee Ndaw Festival Manager at Sudu Connexion, Laza Razanajatovo Director at Rencontres Du Film Court De Madagascar and was moderated by Mounia Aram who is President & Founder of Mounia Aram Company. This is just one among the numerous collaborative efforts among producers, distributors and broadcasters of African animated films. At Akili Network, this collaboration has been pivotal to our success. We have partnered with local producers of animated shows such as Paukwa House and Ubongo Media creators of HummingBird Tales and Ubongo Kids respectively, to air their shows on our channel Akili Kids!
These collaborations are important because they give Africans leverage and a higher bargaining power in the global scene which is still warming up to this fast-rising industry that many were not prepared for.
We all know how challenging it is for content creators to put their work out. With platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, they can showcase their creativity to the world for little to no costs. While in the past, content creators would have to either share their work via mail or compact disks; this can now be done by a single click of a button.
There are also video streaming platforms such as YouTube that have presented an opportunity for creatives and content creators to share their work and even get remuneration. Safaricom recently launched Baze, a local video streaming platform where Kenyan content creators can showcase their work and earn revenue as well. This is a great way of empowering African creatives, especially economically. Our TV station, Akili Kids! is also featured on the platform and for just ksh.10 a day, children all over Kenya can watch fun and educative shows.
These very platforms act as a source of inspiration for creatives while others use them as avenues to sharpen their skills or even commence their journey in art as they can access learning tutorials among other tools. They also come in handy in presenting networking and mentorship opportunities for creatives.
Trevor Noah said, “We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.” If you have never seen it then your mind cannot conceptualize it.
There has been a rise in the number of self-taught animators. This can largely be attributed to the fact that sharing of content has been made much easier and social media has helped overcome challenges brought about by geographical barriers.
We are now seeing more graphic design and animation schools, workshops and mentorship programs coming up such as Nairobits that strive to open up opportunities especially for many youths in Africa that did not get a chance to advance their education to university level due to financial constraints.
Despite all these great advancements, we cannot overlook the challenges that artists face when it comes to getting their work on local screens. Most broadcasters are not ready to pay content creators for their original productions and would rather source content from abroad that is ready made as it is cheaper. These are some of the hurdles our creatives continue to grapple with. Akili Network is open to partner with local producers of animated shows and provide a platform for them to broadcast their work.
It’s impressive to see the big strides the African Animation Industry is making; and we are thrilled for what the future holds for the Afrimation industry.