Feature

THE ANIMATORS: MADE IN NIGERIA

By Kaila Budango and Eric Dan Musa

When last did you meet a guy that introduced herself as an animator? Animator? Where were you trained? Which school gave you the certificate? Degree? In Nigeria? But Nigerians can get really tough when the going gets rough. Without any available formal training in lower and higher institutions, Nigeria has still managed to churn out an animation industry that can be traced back to the days of cartoon series such as Papa Ajasco and Super Story etc. From the black and white newspaper cartoon strips of the sixties to the commercial cartoon series like Boy Alinko, the animation industry in Nigeria has now reached a watershed with the emergence of 3D animators that can compete anywhere in the world.

In critique of the Nigerian made animation sensation, Chicken Core; The Rise of Kings which was directed by Oricha Aliyu, Amid Amidi of Cartoon Brew notes that “the short is a remarkable accomplishment when one recognizes that the artists who made the film are self-taught and that they are creating cartoons in a country with no history of animation production. They are the pioneers who are building their country’s animation industry from the ground-up.”

From the days of “Lash” Lasekan Akinnola who was famous for his political satires published in the West African Pilot during pre-independence and independent Nigeria, animation has been primarily involved with social activism more than with entertainment and amusement. Coincidentally, most of the animated skits posted on Nigeria social media today are either advertising or political commentaries targeted at opponents and aimed at discrediting politicians while making jest of their misadventures in office. This means that most animated work in Nigeria today, which is capital intensive to produce even in a dire economy, are only made possible by the fat pockets of politicians and big brands who can afford it. According to recent research by the Goethe Institute and the Institute Francais on Animation in Nigeria, the average cost of producing a sixty second animated clip in Nigeria is 1.6 Million Naira or 4,654 Dollars (and that’s just sixty seconds oo).

Aside finance, the problems with animation in Nigeria are still multitude though; and at best we can say the industry is still in its infancy. Amidi opines that “Nigeria’s animation industry won’t pop up overnight. There are countless industry-specific issues to contend with ranging from animation education to widespread availability of digital technology to institutional support for the artform before Nigeria can have a robust animation scene.”

Nothing good of lasting value comes easy. The glimmer of hope for Nigerian animators is their passion and a growing market of fans who were raised with cartoons and 3D movies. As evidence that animation is a new trend in Nigeria’s creative labour industry an online commentator observed that “we are an animation academy based in Bangalore and have 11 students from Nigeria enrolled in our courses. They are all brilliant! When asked about their dream job, each of them said the same thing – “I want to teach this in my country”. Money is a constraint. We help them as much as we can. But they have borrowed money to be able to come to India and pursue this course and cannot go back home till they’ve earned enough to pay back. This struggle of theirs has made us begin with an online animation education programme. With this, we aim to make high education in Animation, VFX, Gaming and Graphic Design available to anyone, anytime, anywhere. We will be starting this course next year and hope to help, not just the Nigerian animation industry, but also take it to the most remote corners of the world.”

We suggest that the government should ensure that the enabling environment for industries like this to thrive should be encouraged because animation has the capacity to take a lot of talented young people off the streets who will in turn be engaged in creating products that have spillover effects on the economy and the social as well as cultural fabrics of our country. Rather than consume so much foreign animated television content in the forms of advertising, films and cartoon series, Nigerians should be encouraged to enjoy more of locally made animated strips such as Chicken Core; The Rise of Kings. That way, something similar to the boom in the music and music video production industries can be replicated as we gradually move the economy towards a state of industrious self-realization by creative and hardworking individuals; and not one where virtually everybody is expecting government employment.

As late as 2017 the minister of Information and Culture addressed the 7th African Digital TV Development Seminar in Beijing, China and some of his declarations were hope worthy. According to the minister in his address, “Nigeria’s quest to diversify its economy and stimulate business and employment growth has compelled it to examine the digital economy closely and invest in it more assiduously. For example, the advent of a fast-growing “digital age” in Nigeria, the growing popularity of the Internet, and the establishment of various media-distribution platforms have given rise to an increasing demand for content and services like animation and digital artistry. Ranked 7th in global internet usage, methods of communication and entertainment in the country are fast evolving. Corporate entities and advertising agencies are adopting new creative methods of getting information across.

The creative industry, of which film and animation are an integral part, is developing and adopting new technology and the demand for content shows tremendous growth potential with the advent of various digital platforms. A widening gap has been opened and is barely being filled, hence the need for an animation industry to keep up with global trends.

The animation market is exploding worldwide. It currently represents 25% of the world audiovisual market, a figure that is only set to increase with the introduction of new delivery systems, changing scheduling patterns, and a proliferation of new media forms.

What are we currently doing to rectify the situation and help build up the animation industry in Nigeria? In the words of Confucius: If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people. We must train an army of animation professionals.

The current administration is committed to developing the animation/creative industry into a new growth sector by promoting Nigeria’s creativity, and creating a highly-skilled workforce for the industry. Already, it has created a programme called N-POWER CREATIVE, a job creation and empowerment initiative by the Federal Government of Nigeria for the purpose of training and encouraging the development of creative and technological skills in young Nigerians such as animation, graphic illustration, script writing, storytelling, sequential arts, and post production. With such skills, young Nigerians will be able to find employment in the ever-growing creative and animation industry. Its target will be to equip about 15,000 creative industry professionals across story/script writing, graphics/illustration, animation, post production by 2017, and that figure should rise to 75,000 by 2020 year

By 2018, we shall have a pool of creative industry professionals locally producing content for and providing services to enhance and grow other Nigerian industries and economic sectors as follows: Television, Education and training, Architecture, Nollywood and entertainment, Print, Animation and visual effects, as well as gaming. We also aim to: Be ranked among the top emerging markets in the global animation industry by 2018 year end.” So far it is obvious that these growth projections have not been met but it is at least indicative of hope that people in power who should be privy to such information are in the know and doing what can possibly be done to realize these projections.

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