Zambia, well known for its copper, emeralds, and other pricey gems, may soon have a new feather in its cap as a hub for aspiring Zambian artists and other creators eager to try their hand in the newest Anime scene.
For this, capital city Lusaka has been drawing from an immense well of artistic talent to be found in southern Africa.
Now, an eight-part Netflix series is scheduled to debut on July 20—co-produced by South African animation studio Triggerfish, and London-based kids specialist Cake Studios. Set in a futuristic Lusaka, Supa Team 4, as the series is called, tells of four school-age teenagers recruited to become superheroes by a retired secret agent.
With Supa Team 4, Netflix will have its first-ever original African animated series—a significant milestone for young Zambian animators who have turned the southern African country into a buzzing animation hub.
Supa Team 4 was created by Lusaka-based Malenga Mulendema who has spent the last few years working with her co-producers and Netflix to bring the show to life. “The show, to me, is like a multi-layered cake. I want the audience to dig in and discover the flavors for themselves,” Mulendema told the news site Semafor Africa.
African voice actors include South Africa’s John Kani, who played T’Chaka in the Hollywood blockbuster Black Panther, and Nancy Sekhokoane (Woman King), with a theme song by Zambian rapper/singer Sampa the Great.
A few months back Tabitha Mwale, 22, launched The Super at local cinemas to much acclaim here. She described it as Zambia’s first-ever anime series, as a dedicated fan of the Japanese animation style. “It was a love letter to the art form from a Zambian,” said Akende Muyumbana, the 25-year-old director of The Super. “It was meant to show people that Zambians can make something that has international appeal.”
Anime already has a foothold in Nigeria. Just recently Nigeria’s second-ever anime festival (Èkó Anime Fest) took place in the country’s commercial capital, Lagos, which saw almost 1,000 fans from across the continent gather to show their appreciation for the Japanese art form.
Many of the fans in attendance at the Èkó Anime Festival, one of the few anime conventions in Africa, dressed up as their favorite characters from various TV shows, films and video games.
Muko Tsubusa, 27, who taught himself animation by watching YouTube instruction videos, said he’s seen a rise in local interest in professional animation around Lusaka but feels more international production companies should take a chance on the local talent and “dip their feet in the water.”
Meanwhile, in Uganda, Raymond Malinga has been working on a Disney project and hopes to build the Ugandan industry and contribute to the African industry.
“We are trying to put Africa on the map,” he said, “and we are trying to prove that we too can play with the big boys.” (GIN)