|LWANDA MAGERE (Pinched from Google)|
We want to launch comic books that will be relevant to the youth in Kenya. Lwanda Magere was cool but who in Nairobi today will find that story relatable? I want something that young guys will see and feel like its in line with what they go through or experience.
He then proceeded to pull-out his iPhone to show me what kind of comics he would like to see. This was a funny moment because the comic he showed me was my own. I had been circulating a portion of a comic I was drawing and it landed in his hands. What are the odds right? We parted ways and promised to communicate but I later discovered he was a tough man to reach. We haven't spoken since.
Alright, so coming from a potential publisher, spears, arrows and mud-huts just won't cut it with urban youth. So again I ask, what is African?
In an era where we are all chasing technology and cramming names of designers to the point where some Kenyan ladies can identify a foreign designer just by looking at a dress, what's going on with comics? Our leaders wear, drive and use foreign, kids are up-to-speed with gadgets as they are launched abroad and don't get me started on the slang... I'm just trying to understand how everything about us is foreign but when we throw in iPads, spandex suits and super powers in our comic books SUDDENLY we are not being African.
If I were to ask my target audience when they last saw a mud hut or tended to livestock in the fields I would get blank stares and possibly roaring laughter. If I were to push it and talk about planting in the farms and going for village meetings they would walk away. So as a comic book writer and artist, what is African? Are we being just a tad bit unrealistic?
My sister, who is a writer herself constantly nags me on how westernised my comic books are. I find this rather interesting because I've read a good chunk of her pieces and in none of them did I see "African" philosophies being pushed. They are centred around our modern lifestyles. I guess because we can't physically see her characters then she can get away with it and I cant.
I can go on and on for days with this but I guess what I'm saying here is; You don't like local shows because they aren't as good as the international ones you watch. You claim that America is making millions with Tarzan, Thor, Karate Kid, The Loch Ness Monster, Godzilla and goodness knows how many other traditional concepts they have no connection with. So how about this, you let me do my "unAfrican" stories as beautifully as those of the west that you enjoy and let me capitalise on what isn't mine. That way you get the quality that you want from a Kenyan and I get the market that I want just like the Americans have done over the years.
Isn't that fair?