5 African Comic Artists You Should Know
African comic art – yes, there’s such a thing – is growing at fantastical speeds, flooding the entire continent with its fervour and all-consuming passion. Previously, the African comic fan-base was limited to a shocking over-dependence on foreign supply from companies such as Marvel and DC comics. Those who couldn’t reach/afford that supply had to settle for the sparse cartoon panels on their favourite newspapers.
The emergence of African comic characters, superheroes (not just Marvel’s Black Panther) and (super-villains) – courtesy of comic artists who are African isn’t something one glosses over. It’s almost as phenomenal as having a black man on the moon. Maybe it’s an overreaction but sincerely this discovery gives one the feeling of excitement young boys experience when Clark Kent makes his Superman transition…
As far back as 2006, a New York Times article headline read “African Comics is Now Far Beyond the Funny Pages”. Now, here is a list of five African comic artists you should know about right away.
Naddya Adhiambo Oluoch-Olunya
Kenyan Oluoch-Olunya, holds a degree in animation from Sheridan College in Oakville, Canada. A professional illustrator, animator and artist, she has in the past worked on animated feature films. Shujaaz.fm – a double international digital Emmy-winning multimedia project, also in comic form – is the flagship of her professional career as a comic artist. She presently serves as an illustrator for ZanaAfrica Foundation’s Nia Teen health comics. Her work is excitable, fun and playful. On her Facebook page, an almost fleeting bio reads: “Making marks to tell tales, telling tales to make marks”.
Next stop is South Africa, Butterworth (eGcuwa), where Loyiso Mkize was born in 1987. He studied and earned a diploma in graphic design at Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 2009, and hasn’t looked back since. Mkize is responsible for illustrating SupaStrikas comics – featuring, Shegz and Company – and African superhero Kwezi, which is published by Loyiso Mkize Art, a company he recently founded. Kwezi is unsurprisingly a near anagram of his surname, Mkize.
Like many other artists, Gyimah Gariba’s journey began with small drawings. Although he now lives and works in Toronto, Gariba was born in Accra, Ghana in 1992. He is another fast-rising graduate of animation from Sheridan College – an institution gaining increasing recognition for its prominent alumnae. Gariba has been able to leverage on the power of social media by making fan-art to promote his brand, and once evoked an appreciative comment from pop star, Rihanna. He reveals his initial influences were cartoons like Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Samurai Jack. He says his art is guided by a strong awareness of his African-ness through which, he creates new flavours for his audience. He is presently working on a series of projects among which are Jo Minkus!, involving Nickelodeon, and Anansi, a 3-D short based on Ghanaian stories.
One is likely to have already encountered some of Sunkanmi Akinboye’s work. More popularly known as Mi Woody, he is from Ibadan but lives and works in Lagos. He is the creative hand behind several notable illustrations including YouNeek Studios’ Nigerian superhero E.X.O a.k.a Wale Williams – which has featured on CNN Africa, Mashable, Forbes and BBC. Alongside projects for diverse clients like Farafina Magazine, Onward Paper Mill, True Tarpan UK and Fans ConnectOnline Limited, Akinboye has also completed cover art (StrikeGuard) for comic companies like Vortex Inc. He studied fine and applied arts at Yabatech, and later graphic design at the University of Benin. Akinboye was Comic Panels’ Comic Artist of 2015.
Mohamed and Haitham El-Seht
Mohamed and Haitham El-Seht are identical twins and work as a team. They are known by their pseudonym ‘Twins Cartoon’ and grew up reading comics and eventually studied fine art at Minya University in Upper Egypt. After graduating in 2008, they focused on developing graphic content for Arabian and European companies as comic artists, and organising comic workshops, for example, at the Cairo Comix International Festival for professional and amateur artists in the Cairo region.
Twins Cartoon believes art reflects the inner soul of society and that artists – including comic artists – should express phenomena in their surroundings through art.
The brothers recently founded their own company Garage Comics Magazine and are working on their comic title Garage.
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