Mythology is empowering. It provides a deeper insight into the history and psychology of a culture.
Children in Africa are familiar with cartoons that kids in the US and Europe watch. They are less likely to see cartoon characters that look like them though – African. International cartoons have few characters of African descent and if they do appear, they are normally clichéd and without depth.
Cartoons can play a significant role in highlighting stories that have delighted and informed generations for centuries, especially with children. Kirikou and the Sorceress was one of the first animated features that tapped into the mystique of African folk tales. The film tells the tale of Kirikou, who sets himself the task of saving his cursed village from evil sorceress Karaba.
The 1998 film captured the aesthetic of a respected elder recounting a tale to the younger generation and was sophisticated enough for adults to enjoy. There haven’t been many other animated African-based cartoons or films since that capture the spirit of the film. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in talented creators changing this.
Some creators have been using more inventive methods to raise funds.
Conventional sources of funding have not been getting to cartoons such as Kirikou and the Sorceress, cartoons that explore African legends and folklore. Some creators have been using more inventive methods to raise funds. In 2013, John and Charles Agbaje established a Kickstarter for an animated film called Spider Stories.
The anime has a woman as the main protagonist, significant considering that black women are rarely the heroes or leads. The brothers previously created a graphic novel with more mainstream sci-fi themes but decided to coalesce their love of comic-oriented media and childhood tales. The outcome is a story about a young woman whose rightful ascent to the throne of the Lion Kingdom is stopped by villainous collective.
Crowdsourcing has been a growing investment avenue for animators in recent years. It brings together creators with people who have a true interest in what they’re doing. It is likely to grow in the future because it enfranchises fans and allows investors to be part of the creative process.
Kolanut Productions was formed as an animation and production company focused on untapping African-magical futurism. They created a cartoon called Red Origins which is centred on a group of youngsters transported 60 years into the future. The children are forced to prevent a war between a group enforcing technological advancement and a group adamant on restoring ancestral history. Clearly a story of this nature could have a significant impact on the education of young people.
Let’s hope to see more African-focused cartoons on our screens.
This desire to explore African folklore has not been limited to animated films alone. Aurion Legacy of Kori Odan, a fantasy role-playing action adventure game reached its funding target in 2015 and is expected to be released this year. Let’s hope to see more African-focused cartoons on our screens soon.