Curating 75 years of African Animated Films for CinemAfrica: The Backstory


Just over a month ago, I was in Sweden for Mark Kaigwa on Stage at the Bio Rio Stockholm for CinemAfrica African Animation Forum.

How It All Began

Last summer I went down to South Africa for the Durban International Film Festival. I was selected along with Hawa Essuman, director of Soul Boy for the annual Royal Hotel Durban by Safari Partners

Image via SafariPartners

While there, the Talents and filmmakers and guests of the festival all stayed at the prestigious Royal Hotel in Durban, South Africa. It must have been the third day of that week that I went up for breakfast as usual to the beautiful panoramic view top floor of the hotel and customarily said my room number to the maitre’d. My room number was 639. I moved forward, but was still within earshot when I heard the person behind me say their room number was 936. We were thinking the same thing that it was a curious coincidence, one warranting us to sit down and chat over breakfast. As it turns out, it was none other than the lovely CinemAfrica festival director, Sandra Olivegren.

CinemAfrica had made the decision the previous year to select and have a special focus on animated films from Africa and were looking for someone to make this happen. My previous experience with Warner Bros. animation and being part of initiatives like the Association of Animation Artistes Kenya and AfricanDigitalArt meant we had things in common.

The Challenge

The CinemAfrica team of Oscar Eriksson, Kudzai Chimbaira and Sandra Olivegren had done a brilliant job of finding and selecting a number of films from a host of African filmmakers. My job was to improve on this, add to their body of work and program the CinemAfrica Animation Forum.

Africa has a beautiful history of animated film that spans over 75 years. Though not much exists chronicling this before the 2000s, there have been a few scholars who have attempted to put it in chronological and historic order looking at the most influential animators. There are two particularly popular references, both of them masters theses that borrow and build on the same foundation. One by Italian scholar Giannalberto Bendazzi and another by Briton Andy Wallace not to mention the great work done by African animation ambassador and animator Mohamed Ghazala.

Building on their respective works and looking at the content from the continent with fresh eyes, I set out to get the feedback of other artists as well as Swedish film production companies and independent animators. Tapping into this and connecting with people across the continent who I knew were active in African animation meant I could represent their perspectives in the presentation and format of things in Stockholm.

The Outcome

CinemAfrica helped with the invite list for the event and I got to do some publicity before and after about the film festival and the animation focus. The turnout was great. We had professionals in animation, film production as well as lovers of African film come to the Bio Rio theatre in Stockholm.

I was glad to have with me three African animators and an African film and television pro for the Forum:

Ebele Okoye (Nigeria)

Gatumia Gatumia (Kenya)

Solomon Jagwe (Uganda)

Joe Frans (Sweden)

Ebele’s latest work is The Legacy of Rubies, for which she was selected for Africa First by Focus Features (same program behind two of my favourite recent African short films – Pumzi and Abyss Boys) Gatumia’s currently working on rolling out the television series for Domestic Disturbance and Solomon Jagwe’s raising support to make a feature for his comic-book and animated short Galiwango. In total we had 15 films at the film festival and during the Forum that included these animator’s work.

Joe Frans is founder and CEO of Next Generation Broadcasting, known in Kenya and several other African territories as Smart TV. He spoke on The African Broadcast Market, the opportunities and challenges therein of a content provider and set the context for the sessions to follow. Ebele contributed with her perspective on the Nigerian market while I covered West Africa, South and East Africa. This all built up to our panel discussion where the interactions, questions and insights came from both sides of the stage. I didn’t know this until after the Forum was done, but the Swedes tend not to ask questions in as much. I’m really glad I had an engaged audience!

For the filmmakers, their connections, screenings and interactions have led to fruitful exchanges in the past couple months and as progress and success comes forward I’ll be sure to share it here. Overall, I would say the contacts and networking I did made for an incredible experience.

The Kenyan Embassy

Sandra Olivegren introduced me to H. E. Ambassador Muhindi, Kenya’s emissary to Sweden and as part of my time there I had the chance to host a night of Kenyan film and animation on behalf of the embassy. The embassy invited guests to the event and we had some great question and answer sessions with Swedes, Kenyans and other members of the diaspora. We watched The Greedy Lords of The Jungle (and why he made it) by Gatumia Gatumia, Dawa and Hawa Essuman’s Soul Boy (recent winner of the African Movie Academy Award for Best Editing)

Nick Reding, Gatumia Gatumia, Her Excellency Ambassador Muhindi and Mark Kaigwa

In the build-up and as a result I happened to get featured quite a bit in the Swedish press: radio, televison and video interviews for a number of media.

Mark Kaigwa on Swedish Television Interview for CinemAfrica 2011.


Swedish Interview Mark Kaigwa (2)

Kenneth Nkosi, Mark Kaigwa and Rapulana Seiphemo Mark Kaigwa African Animation Curator Television Interview Sweden

If you’d like to see a similar African animation program take place at your festival please get in touch with me:

  • Ciombaine

    Great work, it amazing how much happens around us impacting us in Kenya/Africa positively…we need to hightlight these things more, keep up!!