African animation, a memorial bus for Ken Saro-Wiwa, and new music by Nneka and Samba Touré – cultural happenings from March to May and beyond.
Words Nana Ocran
For 45 days in 2013, self-trained animators Charles and John Agbaje ran a Kickstarter campaign. Their mission? To get the ball rolling on Spider Stories, a fantasy action adventure based on mythical African folktales and mythology. $300,000 and 700 backers later, the Los Angeles-based siblings are now in a robust position to create a fully-fledged animation series that’s accessible on digital streaming platforms. Geared towards a discerning young audience, the plot revolves around princess Zahara who loses her kingdom but must fight to reclaim her throne. Accompanied by spirit allies and a caravan of travelling merchants, “it’s a universal story with a unique cultural perspective that’s never been seen before” explains Charles Agbaje.
“Stylistically we want to create deep fantastic worlds for epic storytelling in a cinematic style like those found in Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. Master works in 2D animation like the Lion King and Avatar: The Last Airbender, as well as action found in anime like Dragon Ball Z and Samurai Champloo have also influenced our sensibilities.”
With a team composed of musicians and artists, the project is well underway, and since developing a partnership with a production studio, the brother’s creative vision to produce a unique animation world is rapidly being realised.
Almost a decade ago, the art and campaigning collective Platform London, held an international open competition to create a living legend to Ken Saro-Wiwa, the late Nigerian writer and environmental activist. With a judging panel that included artist Yinka Shonibare MBE, and Ken Wiwa Jr, it was sculptor Sokari Douglas Camp’s proposal that won out. Launched in 2006, her Battle Bus has been travelling around the UK ever since. Now, the art piece is heading over to Nigeria. Working closely with the Ogoni people in the Delta region (Saro-Wiwa’s homeland), as well as with other arts partners.
Platform London’s plan is to permanently move the bus to Ogoniland via Lagos and Port Harcourt as a lifelong memorial. Of Douglas Camp’s internationally renowned sculptures, the Battle Bus is the largest, and arguably the most politically potent. As a last port of call, its West African ‘resting place’ as a site for international attention seems more than appropriate.
My Fairy Tales by Nneka
“Sooner or later,” says Mark Edwards of the UK’s Sunday Times, “we will all be bowled over by Nneka’s music.” We already are.
One of Nigeria’s most famous exports is best known for her 2008 hit Heartbreak (also sampled on Rita Ora’s RIP). The outspoken singer won Best African Act at the MOBOs in 2009 and has since made her way to playlists the world over with her combination of powerful, personal and political lyrics and multi-faceted voice.
Nneka’s new album My Fairy Tales focuses on the artist’s roots with a firm afrobeat footing. Tackling the politics of her birthplace in the Niger Delta and her personal voyage of discovery, songs include Babylon that tells of a regional plight in West Africa and Local Champion about her current hometown of Warri.
Nneka has toured with Nas and Damian Marley (a distant relative) and has collaborated with a host of household names that include Lenny Kravitz and Tricky but she firmly holds her own. Already legendary, Nneka is here for a long time coming.
Nneka will play at The Village Underground in East London on the 7th April 2015.
Gandadiko by Samba Touré
Glitterbeat Records has just released its latest album, Gandadiko by the Malian guitarist and singer Samba Touré. The title of the 10-track recording translates as ‘burning land’ or ‘land of the drought’ in the artist’s Songhai language. Though packed with danceable tracks – Wo Yende Alakar (Don’t Play with Fire), Farikoyo (Farmers) and Su Wililé (The Living Deads) being some of them – their messages encourage listeners to live a more hopeful life. It’s obviously significant that this album comes two years after Tourés last fairly mournful one – Albala – which was produced during Mali’s well documented 2012 crisis. Gandadiko offers a sublime balance of vocals and bluesy rhythm guitar that’s well worth a listen.
Blogs & Websites
The online platforms for showcasing and celebrating African art and creativity have gone from strength to strength over the last few years. Here’s a tiny tip of the continent’s arts focused networks…
Lagos Art Beat
Design, art, architecture and fashion from Africa’s most hyped up city; This is a portal for interviews, reviews as well as one-off, ongoing or permanent exhibitions and events. Launched by independent curator and arts writer Joseph Gergel in November 2014, the site is essentially a response to the overwhelming number of creative projects happening in the city. With plans to expand Lagos Art Beat into a documentary TV series, it’s definitely a space to watch.
Sheila Ochugboju and Joshua Wanyama are the dynamic founders of this online photo agency that stocks a huge library of royalty-free images. The
site’s statement title indicates what AfricaKnows does best – highlighting the continent’s visual stories. The strongest focus is on Kenya, but plenty
of other countries come under the spotlight, with 21st century Africa and its revolutions in technology, politics and expression all up for image buyers and sellers to tap into.
Afrikadaa Interactive and contemporary African art is reviewed by a collection of artists on this English and French language site. Covering art, design and architecture from a mainly African standpoint the site features a wide selection of contributions from artists from Africa, its diaspora and beyond.