For a century, animated films have shaped the childhood memories of children all over the world. Children in Europe and North America have had the privilege of recognizing themselves in these characters. This is why Disney princesses Jasmine, Mulan and Tiana were almost revolutionary for being Middle-Eastern, Chinese and African-American, respectively. Those characters just don’t exist for African children.
It is no surprise that there is a lack of true positive African voices in the world of children’s media. What can children watch, read or play with to learn more about the wonderful continent in a positive genuine way? Not as some afterthought. The key words being ‘genuine, ‘educational’, ‘entertaining’ and ‘representative’ we are not talking about Madagascar or Lion King here. Nothing against Disney but those movies (or similar) are not what we are referring to in this context as they do not really represent Africa in any real way beyond just being set there. We are looking more for cartoons that have real Africans (human) characters. To be clear WE DO NOT expect Disney or any other major children media group to do this. It’s not their responsibility to do so. It would be nice if they did though, but that is discussion for another day.
We need to get our house in order and have the same vision that the founders of Disney, Cartoon Network etc. had when they started. We have to build our own version that will serve our local and regional markets. If this doesn’t happen then we don’t have a right to complain about there being a Cartoon Network Africa or Disney Africa with no African content. African cartoons will portray our rich cultural heritage and would have positive impact on our children especially those born in diaspora to learn about their continent.
Recently, a young emerging filmmaker, Adebimpe Adebambo, produced and directed Tejumade, a family animated short film. Ms. Adebambo’s goal is to provide and produce family and child friendly productions. Tejumade is a story which has a girl child as the lead character, who was inspired by our rich African and Nigerian folklore which we are fast loosing. It is a story of family, love and adventure and the producer is working on developing a series and a full length feature film based on request by over 2,000 children she screened it to over the 2017 long vacation. The filmmaker seeks to instil and re-awaken the love for the Nigerian family life, values, morals and culture in children and children at heart in an entertaining way and she also places importance on the girl child. You can watch the film online (free) with your family and friends till the end of November in the Vimeo link provided here. https://vimeo.com/227624005. The film can also be watched on YouTube.
Ms. Adebambo is just one of the few individuals who is making an impact in children’s entertainment by providing content that would help the Nigerian child know its culture, traditions, mother tongue, norms and mores of our rich African cultural heritage, its heroes and heroines. We need more of her type. We are well aware that African animators often find themselves trapped between a paucity of international imagination and a lack of funding. They need financial support just as Cartoon Network and Disney have enjoyed from their corporate organisations. Nigerian and African corporate organisations should help grow this part of entertainment that we are in dire need of.
We believe that these cartoons would help solve some of our cultural issues and develop the minds of our young children to respect cultural diversity by accommodating each tribe and tongue to build the unity we all yearn for.