Sub-Saharan African animation is an unfamiliar genre of film and typically unknown outside Africa.
In April 2004 BU’s Paula Callus was invited to be part of a panel of experts for the UNESCO Africa Animated Initiative as educational consultant. Callus utilised her expertise in computer animation and anthropology of media to develop a curriculum for a 5-week project to teach artists, filmmakers and animators from the Sub-Saharan region the skills of computer animation production.
Subsequently from 2004-2012, Callus conducted anthropological research that recorded the development of animation and varied artistic practices within different countries from this region. This provided an analysis of culturally specific content that informed the animated films. The anthropological fieldwork conducted was qualitative participant observation.
The impact of the dissemination of this research is felt on multiple levels, and to varying degrees by most of the Sub-Saharan filmmakers whose work has been promoted through curatorial programming for the festival circuit. This dissemination has meant that they are remunerated for the screening rights to their work, and that this work is now being discussed in the context of larger discourses on African filmmaking.
Of noteworthy interest, artists such as Jean Michel Kibushi from the DRC who benefitted from funding for travel to the UK to present and discuss his films in 2008 at CAFF (Cambridge African Film Festival) http://www.african.cam.ac.uk/cambridgeafricanfilmfestival2008/caff_speakers.htm
The animator Allan Mwaniki, previous UNESCO trainee, from Kenya who benefitted from the Commonwealth fund in 2010 visiting Edinburgh for the Africa in Motion Film Festival, to present his animated work and collaborate in workshops with local children in animation.
The on-going documentation of the animated films from this region and key players has indicated a growth in the sector from 2004 to 2012 in Kenya. The study produced evidence of an improvement in the professional development of the participants from the UNESCO project of noteworthy interest the cases of
- Godfrey Mwampembwa (aka GADO) who increased his skills from political cartooning to producer and director for The XYZ Show, currently aired on Citizen TV in Nairobi and in its 6th season, and director BuniTV and BuniMedia a company founded in 2009 that includes service providing the entertainment industry with a DigitalFX and animation studio. (BuniMedia.com) (http://www.archives.africandigitalart.com/2009/06/animation-in-kenya/ )
- The setting-up and launch of the Association of Animation Artistes for Kenyan animators in 2009 by award winning animator Kwame Nyongo, previous UNESCO trainee in 2004 and trainer in 2005 to create an organisation to mobilise and represent the local community of animators. (http://www.awn.com/events/visual-effects/association-animation-artistes-kenya-genesis-seminar-1 ) (http://tedxnairobi.com/2009/10/28/a-case-for-animation-production-in-kenya/ )
- The Tiger Aspect (UK) production of Tinga Tinga Tales in Nairobi, Kenya that employed a large number of UNESCO trainees for the pilot development and series production. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBmI6-VBBXU) / (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96JqKO5rrw8&feature=BFa&list=ULN9DNbWA8esk) This video includes narratives from Celeste Wamiru and Tom Mbalu, previous UNESCO Africa Animated trainees.
In the UK evidence of the impact of this research can be seen in an increase in audience interest in the animation programs that are run at the AIM (Africa in Motion) film festival reported by the organisation in their yearly reports (AIM reported 353 ticket sales in 2011 compared to 77 tickets bought in 2008). Furthermore in 2010 the festival included the School Tours Program (funded by Regional Screens Scotland) that took African film and animated content to various schools within the community with a view to encourage exposure to African culture, narratives and aesthetics (http://www.africa-in-motion.org.uk/aim-on-tour/).
- Callus, P., 2010 a. Animation as a socio-political commentary: an analysis of the animated films of Congolese director Jean Michel Kibushi. Journal of African Media Studies, 2 (1), pp. 55-71.
- Callus, P., 2010 b. Reflections on animation… An interview by Paula Callus with J.M. Kibushi. In: Through African Eyes: Conversations with the Directors. New York: African Film Festival Inc.
- Callus, P., 2012. Reading animation through the eyes of anthropology. Animation: an interdisciplinary Journal, Vol7 (2), pp. 113-130.