THE DILEMMA OF AN AFRICAN WRITER

When I first heard about Leti Arts I could not help but enlighten my friends about the rising African creative industry, for those who were courteous enough to listen I  discovered they were amused at the thought of African Superheroes and it did not take long for me to realize that many of my peers were of the belief that a game of African origin would definitely be of inferior quality .

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Since then the situation has improved but nonetheless it is still quite difficult to pique the interest of individuals especially since we are on a continent that is blinded by the misconception that implies all that games, animations and comics are good for are entertainment.

The unfortunate fact remains for many, superheroes and games from outside the continent are welcome while produce from our very own backyard is not even given face, after all the Supermen and Spidermen still reign supreme even in our corner of the globe.

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who is more popular than the flash these days?

That said, it is obvious African creators find themselves in a bit of a pickle especially since they seem to be more appreciated by foreign parties, no one seems to take them quite seriously until they have had a BBC or CNN feature and even those who are fortunate enough to catch the eye of the public still find it difficult to make needed sales.

As a result most African creators find themselves faced with a dilemma, do they satisfy their audience or do they satisfy their culture?The unfortunate reality for the African creator is that the satisfying the audience and the culture are not the same thing as one would have initially expected.

A lot of Africans are not the least bit interested in games and comics and unfortunately many of those who are are used to a particular genre.. “superheroes”..so as a result the moment they hear African comic they already expect to find spandex and supers and if they don’t, they do not even bother to look past the first page,  further more superheroes have become more popular thanks to their successful movies and television series which have become hits even in our locales, so really we are at a point where African publishers cannot even compete for the attention of their own audience!

The strategy any sensible writer would take in such a situation especially if he wanted to make sales is to follow the trends, they want superheroes so fine give it to them but as earlier stated a lot of Africans still find the idea of an African superhero amusing and most creators are really not in it for the sales but passion….a passion for superheroes which directly rivals their passion for Africa.

After interviewing two of Africa’s most promising creators my deduction was the industry still does not really know the direction it wants to take and this is because of the dilemma  most of it’s creators still struggle with, some not all as  Orisha pikin writer and creator Kiyindou Mayinguidi Archange Marie-Michel demonstrates in the following interview,

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“My love for Africans influences my creative process.”

interview:

What inspired you to make comics and what motivates you to continue investing efforts into it?

Kiyindou: 

As far as I remember I’ve always been interested in entertaining people through stories and images. But now that I’ve grown up I discovered that I can use storytelling as a tool to promote our underrated culture.
so as a creator do you have any particular audience as your priority niche?
Kiyindou:
Africa is my audience and only Africans with the diaspora. My love for Africans influences my creative process.
What legacy do you hope to leave behind through your work?
Kiyindou:
I’d like to inspire Africans to love their culture, to consume African stories the same way they consume Japanese anime/comics. I also believe that adults are lost while children are still opened to become afrocentered. Therefore I wanna develop this spirit in kids, with values that will make them useful to our society, which is why children/teenagers are my main audience.
As an African creator what are your main challenges?
  
Kiyindou:
Exposure is a challenge, not a lot of people can access or learn about a comic book. So it’s a challenge to get it out there, which is why I’m pushing it as much as possible. Also profit is another challenge. With all the energy and time we put into making these comics, we don’t have any remuneration that can help us sustain ourselves. These are 2 main challenges!
So how do you believe these challenges could be overcome?
Kiyindou:
Well I think exposure comes before profit. Nobody is gonna pay for something they’ve never heard of. So I believe we need to develop a comic culture in which comics will be consumed by readers on a weekly basis. Thereafter any comic with an important number of readers can be monetized. But I leave that one to business people.
where do you see the industry five years from now?
Kiyindou:
In 5 years from now the industry should be quite big considering the pace at which companies are popping up, and with the Lagos ComicCon getting bigger every year, there will be more public awareness.
As the industry is in its formative years it has seen quite some controversy,one major issue been the fact that up till now its stock is still termed African comics, now comic is a term colloquially used to refer to stock from the western industry now for an industry that wishes to showcase Africa’s underrated culture don’t you believe it is ironic it is labeled with a western term especially in a world where others like the Japanese have succeeded in building a significantly varied industry and have thus appropriately name it in their own term?
Kiyindou:
Good question! I see quite a few comics that stand out of the western codes of the genre and I think with time there will be a worldwide African comic code.
So far though there has been minimum exposure do you believe your work has been well received?
Kiyindou:
My work has gotten as much exposure as anybody else work. What comes after is the result of hours of thinking about how more people can hear access it.
So you believe its been well received?
 
Kiyindou:
Fairly yes!
Finally what message do you have for any potential creators out there?
Kiyindou:
They should really love what they are doing, for only love will make them push their work until it is recognized!
Thank you very much,have a great day!
Kiyindou:
Thank you!

Kiyindou clearly prioritizes Africa over any particular genre of story telling and it shows in his work. Orisha pikin for instance relies heavily on African myth and lore with literally no foreign influences, making use of typical day to day African life and telling a dynamic and fulfilling story, but that is not the case for everyone and personally I believe that is unfortunate, for some it is really just about telling a good story and compromising the African component for the sake of the story is really no big deal,I am not saying that is a bad thing, I am just saying it is quite unfortunate for Africa!

let us hear what Roye Okupe the widely known founder of Youneek studios and creator of the likes of Exo :legend of Wale Williams and Malika :Warrior queen had to say…..

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The priority for me is anyone who enjoys  a great story

interview:

what inspired you to help pioneer a whole creative industry and what motivates you to continue investing efforts into it?
Roye:
The thing that really motivates me is when people come to me and tell me that I’ve inspired them to chase their own dreams because I am living mine. It is honestly one of the most gratifying feelings. To know that you added value to someone else’s life!
Do you do this full time or is it a part time job?
Roye:
I do this full time. I quit my full time job in June 2015 to pursue this career (animation and comics) full time. I couldn’t make the impact I wanted to make doing this part time.
it was a very hard decision!

where do you see the industry say 10 years from now?

Roye:

In 10 years I hope artists, game developer and animators can make a good living doing this full time and not have to balance it with full time jobs. In 10 years, I hope African investors will have more faith in the industry to invest into it.

As a creator who are your priority audience ,The locals or the international community?

Roye:

The priority for me is anyone who enjoys a great story. Whether you’re black or white, from Africa, Asia, Europe or Naboo in a galaxy far far away, a great story is universal.

what challenges am I likely to face if I wanted to walk the same path as you?

Roye:

The main challenge will be financial. There’s not a lot of money to be made right now in this industry. Especially when you first start out. You will be extremely frustrated and perhaps depressed. I’ve been there. But passion, God and belief in yourself will see you through till when money starts to come in.

what legacy do you hope to leave through your work?

Roye:

I hope my legacy would be that I inspired others to chase their dreams while living mine.

Thank you so much!

Do not get  me wrong ,I admire Roye and I believe he is a real life superhero but at last he is a creator at heart and as such he is likely to follow the trends, for some of us it is a battle really, a battle to liberate African minds from western superiority, yet for others it is really about the stories which I re-enforce is not a bad thing, but is quite unfortunate for the African struggle.

The current terrain makes it all the more difficult after all one does not survive on passion alone, you need to pay bills and eat, but the unfortunate fact is compromising the African component for the sake of the story undermines the very reason for which the story is being told , it is a hard fight sure but does that mean we should succumb to creative colonization? 

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Everyone agrees at some point the finances are definitely a problem, but it is a problem we can and must help solve and if there is any indicator the various kickstarters organized by African publishers shows that yes there are those ready to give their support.Lagos comic con is getting bigger and that only means it is time we got a tad more aggressive with this battle.The foundations of the industry are been formed and that means we can break away from the misconceptions that plague the Western world ,only if we remain original and only if we keep on fighting…it is up to everyone…get up and tell people about it, make noise tell your friends who are not interested!It is great we have been able to create societies where like minded individuals can share ideas and help in the creative process but it is time we found new ways of bringing in those who are completely uninterested before the MCU movies brainwash them for good too!

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5 thoughts on “THE DILEMMA OF AN AFRICAN WRITER

  1. I love your blog, got here via the Nigerian Writers FB group. I love this people for their love of Africa. It is works like this i look forward to going viral soon enough. A friend made an animated short story on Sango and it was needless to say impeccable. Keep up the good work here. Cheers.

    Like

  2. I love what you did with this, as an african writer myself I’d sort of hit a wall with how to further my dreams of inspire myself even, but I’m glad to say this post has been somewhat of a breath of fresh air, it makes me realize just where my loyalties should lie and what I should struggle towards, I think it’s up to us writers of this founding generation to struggle towards the spread of our culture nationwide, I mean if we can pay so much attention and immerse ourselves in Japanese anime and Foreign comics, we can at least take the same approach and lead our people to see Afro-Centric narratives in the Same light.Africa is a beautiful story,we just have to write it

    Liked by 1 person

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