Most people just discovered the enormous talent that Kenyan creatives posses when it comes to animation. Little did you know that these guys had developed this art way before.
Is it just me or are Kenyan artistes taken aback by animated music videos? International artistes have used them and the reception of the fans to their videos has so far been great.
I think it's safe to say that the Kulahappy show is the most hilarious Kenyan animation series to be created yet.
Following the launch of the localized YouTube Kenya site late last year, Kenya now has a web and mobile video site which it can call its very own.
The quest to make Kenya the next frontier of a revitalised Silicon Valley is a consumate one, with not just the country's tech companies in the gold rush, but also local animators gearing up for better forecasts and a greater demand.
The 'Silicon Savannah' dream seems to be taking shape, albeit slowly but at a steady pace, with the government heavily investing in publicity and incentives to lure interested (local and international) parties into pioneering projects such as Konza Technology city and its lesser known sister project Malili e-City. Animators do not want to be left behind as the revolution metamorphs into a reality despite numerous obstacles.
Let’s imagine an ultra-modern city with shinning marble streets. Everything will glitter. Mr. Gikonyo Gitonga of CB Richard Ellis imagined about the planned Malili e-City back in 2010: “Due to competition, the techno-park must have quality residential areas, entertainment spots, shopping malls, sport facilities like a golf course, among others, to make it an attractive place to work.”
Even as the Information PS Dr. Ndemo was painting a good picture of the project, a fierce battle was raging inside and outside the courts regarding the manner the government was handling the purchase of the land which was allegedly worth Kshs1 billion and the government had paid only Shs400 million. Disputes erupted because of what are said to be irregular payment channels and we haven't heard much talk since about the project.
Nonetheless, with the laying of the fibre optic cable broadening prospects, the future seems bright for the animation industry. Despite efforts by regional broadcasters and the audiovisual community in Africa, children’s programmes and in particular computer-animated cartoons, were mostly imported from abroad. This lack of local content was mainly caused by the absence of cost effective production, the lack of ICT equipment, facilities and the lack of people with skills in computer animation. UNESCO realized this deficiency and organized the first ever initiative to pool together resources and expertise in this specialized production, under the banner Africa Animated! in 2004.
The first five week hands-on training workshop was held at the Zanzibar International Film Festival and in Nairobi in June/July 2004, successfully showcasing the talent, skills and potential in animation production. 15 young African artists with little or no previous experience in animation underwent a tailor-made intensive training.
Taught by renowned animators and audiovisual professionals such as Cilia Sawadogo, Concordia University, Montreal, Anezka Sebek, Parsons School of Design, USA, Paula Callus, Bournemouth University, UK, Nina Paley, Parsons School of Design, USA as well as local co-trainers, the workshop included guest lectures by experts in (African) animation and art such as Emma Kaye, South Africa, Silvia Bazzoli, Italy and Mshai Mwangola from right here in Kenya.
Other partners who ended up supporting the Africa Animated! initiative included: Canal France International (CFI), the French Cooperation, French Embassy Nairobi, UNICEF’s Sara Communication Initiative, Bournemouth University, UK, Parsons School of Design, USA, Concordia University, Canada, Kenya College of Communications Technology (KCCT), URTNA, SABA, SABC and KTN.
Foreign companies began to take notice of the potential that continental animators had, and arguably the most successful outcome has to be 'Tinga Tinga tales', co-produced by Nairobi-based Homeboyz Animation and UK-based Tiger Aspect for the BBC's childrens channel.
Allan Mwaniki, director and lead animator at Homeboyz, said that the scale of "Tinga Tinga Tales," which involved nearly 50 animators in Nairobi, was proof that the Kenyan industry could effectively handle a large-scale production. "We've shown the world we can do it."
Newspapers and Magazines also regularly feature animated pull outs such as Supa Strika and Shujaas which are locally produced. Even MTV Shuga is coming up with a graphic version of the hit series
Animators still face limited opportunities in the Kenyan market though. Kwame Nyong'o, creator of the well-regarded animated short "The Legend of the Ngong Hills," which was just recently nominated for an award at the 2012 African Academy Awards, told Variety magazine that the Darwinian nature of the local industry forces artists to be avid promoters of their own work. "You have to create the opportunities for yourself."
There's been an explosion of interest in just what the animation industry in Kenya has to offer as the country positions itself to be the leading outsourcing region in the world after Bangalore, India and the Silicon Valley in the USA.
We even have the likes of the African Sci-Fi Factory linking up with cartoonist GADO to come up with the popular CGI production, the XYZ show. Some musicians such as Just a Band have also experimented with animation in 3D as a production team, Wageuzi, also made a feature animated 'political battle'. (see video below).
It is for this sprawling reason that the Kenya Film Commission has hosted the Animation Expo for the past three years. In the past, the event has incorporated the showcasing of animation works by Kenyan artists as well as an entrepreneurship workshop.
This year as the Commission focuses on providing opportunities for investment in film, the Expo will incorporate film producers as well as animators showcasing their work. The Commission will encourage exhibitors to have sample works as well as merchandise of their film and animation works.
The target participants for the expo include investors, distributors, corporate companies, content acquisition managers (from broadcast houses) students, creative industry professionals and all those interested in local content.
The Film and Animation expo will take place on the 31st of March 2012 at the Prestige Palm at Prestige Plaza on Ngong Road from 9.30 am. Exhibitors will include:
• Cinematic Solutions (film & TV)
• HARTO (Animation)
• Immortal Media (Film &TV)
• Airpress Communications (Animation)
• Digital Dialect Designs (Animation)
• Sigi Tolo Media Inc (Animation)
• Anto Dezigns (Animation)
• Senzafine (Animation)
• Arc Rotate Studios (Animation)
• Digitall Definitions (Animation)
• Rift 3D (Animation)
• Nairobi Institute of Technology (Animation)
• RiverWood Ensemble (film)
• Balozi Productions(Animation)
• Mojo Productions (film)
• Chomoka Studio (Animation)
• Homeboyz Animation
• Daystar University (Film)
This expo follows a workshop that took place last Friday at the Multimedia University, with the discussion being 'Animation in Africa' and led by Mwara Kung'u and Kwame Nyong'o, both experts in the field.
There is no denying that the future is bright for Kenyan animators, as long as they get access to the resources they require and develop the right skills to meet the evolving global market.