In June 2021, Disney+ and Cartoon Network, two of North America’s largest animation platforms, announcement which would launch four productions by African creators. This comes shortly after other streaming giants like Netflix and Youtube Originals made a similar announcement. This indicates a growing demand among African audiences for homegrown stories that represent them. in the midst of a boom in audiovisual content in the global market.
The first of these new productions is Kizazi Motorcycle(which means “generation of fire” in Swahili), a ten-part animated collection, an anthology of Afrofuturist films that explores the future of Africa and will include stories written by creators from six African countries.
The second is titled “Kiya and the Kimoja Heroesand is a series aimed at preschoolers that focuses on the story of a seven-year-old African girl, who loves ballet and martial arts. When she and her two best friends don their crystal tiaras magical, they become authentic superheroes ready to defend their community.”Love, a 2D animated comedy by South African animators, tells the story of an optimistic squirrel and a carefree rabbit. Finally, we will talk aboutGarbage Boy and Trash Can“, Cartoon Network’s new superhero series featuring a boy with imaginary superpowers who fights for justice accompanied by his trusty squire.
—Disney+ (@disneyplus) June 17, 2021
Kizazi Moto Generation Fire, a new original series will bring stunning sci-fi animation to DisneyPlus in 2022.
Although this portrayal is hugely successful, many African animators’ pursuit of portrayal goes beyond having characters that look like them. Cartoons have also become tools for the preservation of endangered African languages. These designers hope to use cartoons as a medium to teach mythologies, philosophies, wider tradition, as well as African cultural expressions and languages through entertainment.
Over 300 African languages are endangered
The African continent comprises about a third of the over 7,000 living languages in the world. Given the relentless dominance of international languages like English and Portuguese, mother tongues are increasingly under threat.
In 2018, the UNESCO has reported that more than 300 African languages are endangered and more than 52 have disappeared. The report also indicates that if these languages are not taught to young people, they are at even greater risk of disappearing. Since 1950, 230 languages have disappeared in the world, including 37 African.
According to article Quartz’s report on the Yakut language – an endangered language spoken in Kenya by just seven people, all over the age of 70 – African languages are particularly vulnerable as governments adopt other languages as official languages and reject local languages in hopes of forging a more unified national identity.
Despite their great linguistic diversity, the predominant official languages in most African states are English and French, two international languages. The Somali, Berber, Wolof, Oromo, Igbo, Swahili, Hausa, Mandinka, Fulani and Yoruba languages are African languages which, although they are spoken by millions of people, they are considered local languages and there are few official languages at the national level.
Can African animators change this trend?
African languages in cartoons
While English remains the dominant language in the global animation market, Swahili is gaining status as an alternative language for African audiences. This is largely due to the ubiquity of Disney.
According to an article titled “The (mis)use of Swahili in Western popular culturepublished by ThisisAfrica, perhaps the 1994 Disney animated film titled “The Lion King” is the most popular western film in which Swahili appears. In 2015, a Disney sequel titled “The Lion Guard” was was created, and since then, the status of Swahili has increased as the reference African language in animated series.
Since then, African animators have successfully integrated Swahili into their production dialogues, animated films or series titles. Some include titles like: “Super Sema” — Africa’s first animated series about children’s superheroes, co-produced by Kenyan Lupita Nyong’o; “Akili and me», produced by Ubongo Kids and «My better world“.
#SuperSema launched in March 2021 and is truly inspiring, educational and fun content for all kids.
Episodes are available at #Youtube with @lupitanyongo Mom Dunia.#youtubeoriginals #Super hero #africandiasporakids #africandiaspora #blackstories #africananimation pic.twitter.com/DaAoU3f0sL
— Mbifebooks (@mbifebooks) July 18, 2021
In March 2021, SuperSema was created, a very inspiring and educational series that shows fun content for children. These episodes are available on #YouTube, with Lupita Nnyong’o as Mama Dunia.
during interview for the litnet.co.za portalChris Morgan, founder and creative director of Fundi Films and producer of the “My Better World” saga, said:
Despite the scarcity of formal training opportunities, local productions are already beginning to take off. It was important to have real diversity in our characters so that the series could work in different parts of our continent. We went through every stage of development with teams in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya – these same reviewers guided our scriptwriting process.
Despite the lack of formal training opportunities, these animation productions are beginning to take off locally. It was important to have real diversity in our characters so that the series could work in different parts of our continent. We reviewed every phase of the series’ development with teams from Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya, and those same reviewers guided our storyboarding process.
Featured cartoons that teach African languages
cartoons are a effective method impart to young Africans basic knowledge of life and language that is not usually taught in school. There are several cartoon programs that hope to fill this void.
From West Africa, we can highlight “Bino and Finoseries of educational cartoons for children, launched in 2010 and created by Nigerian animator Adamu Waziri. Its characters, the boy Bino, and his sister, Fino, discover African history and culture accompanied by Zeena, a magical butterfly. These cartoons are broadcast in fifteen countries and in different languages such as English, Twi, Yoruba, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Hausa, Igbo, French and Swahili and it is also available on Youtube. THE Anilingo Series from “IyinCreative” is another cartoon series that promotes and preserves African cultural heritage.
Meet Bino and Fino, a brother and sister who go on an adventure with their magic butterfly Zeena and learn all about Africa and the world! look at https://t.co/xESBCQtYFa and batteryPOP’s FREE Cartoon Roku channel. #binoandfino pic.twitter.com/tWBmCbEBiR
– batteryPOP (@batteriepop) June 16, 2020
Meet Bino and Fino, brother and sister who will go on an adventure accompanied by Zeena, a magic butterfly, and learn everything about Africa and the rest of the world. enjoy in https://t.co/xESBCQtYFa and the Roku Cartoon Channel, which is free and available on batteryPop.
“Ẹbí Fọ́lọ́runṣọ́is another anime series created by Kayode Oloko, a Nigerian who lives in Finland and teaches Yoruba, one of the country’s vernacular languages. The program launches awareness campaigns on the culture, tradition and identity of all Yoruba children in Nigeria. In an interview for the Pan-Africa.net portal he said his initiative and what led him to put it into practice.
In Nigeria today, many parents prefer their offspring to speak the English language rather than their own mother tongue. It is a sad reality that future generations could lose their identity and purpose, a heavy price to pay for living in a host country.
In present-day Nigeria, many parents prefer their children to speak English rather than their own mother tongue. The sad reality is that future generations could lose their identity and purpose, which is a high price to pay for living in a host country.
From Central Africa, we highlight CMR CHILDREN TVa YouTube TV channel that teaches Cameroonian children about their culture and history, and some languages like Euondo and Diúla.
From East Africa, stands out Tsehai likes to learn, another noteworthy anime series. The Ethiopian Early Childhood Education Platform is available in seven local languages, providing essential information for children’s literacy, health, and social and emotional learning.
In South Africa, YouTube offers programs such as children’s songs on Zulu and Xhosa. Unlike other African countries where only one local language is recognized as the national language, South Africa has 11 official languages, ten of which are native to the country.
As Africa fights for a place on the global animation stage, it is poised to become the next focus with continued efforts to create an original voice and presence. According to Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), support and control by African governments remains elusive.
The need for government interventions and supports for comics and cartoons becomes necessary as they are strategic media to relate to the younger generations of this millennium.
From a strategic point of view, government intervention, as well as support for comics and cartoons, are essential elements to communicate with the young generations of this millennium.