Ebele Okoye: Charting New Territory
Ebele Okoye is a pacesetter in the relatively new field of animation in Nigeria. With a couple of awards already under her belt for works like The Legacy of Rubies, she continues to play a leading role in the future of the genre.
You moved to Germany in 2000, and are now married to a German, how have you been able to deal with and fuse varying cultural influences in your work?
This might sound shocking; I never had extremely varying cultural differences in my work because even when I was in Nigeria, my work had multi-cultural influences, depending on my interactions at the particular time. Thus, I already had a German influence before making the conscious decision to move to that country 16 years ago. This influence manifests itself in a lot of my animation films, which are made out of literary works of renowned German poets like Kurt Schwitters, Anna Blume, Ulrike Almut Sandig, Meine Heimat (My Homeland), Simone Kanter, Die Verrückte (The Lunatic), and lately Björn Kuhligk, (Die Liebe in den Zeiten der EU, Love in the Age of the EU).
You launched Shrinkfish Media Lab in March 2013 at the Goethe-Institut, Lagos in co-operation with the Goethe-Institut Centre for Entrepreneurship and Development Research (CEDR) of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. How much impact has been made so far?
The Shrinkfish Media Lab (smedLAB) has had only one edition. Being a maiden one, I must say that the impact has been great. The testimonials from the students have also been encouraging. One of the ex-trainees has just finished a further education in an animation school in Canada, and it is such a great feeling to know that smedLAB gave him the stepping-stone to venture that far. A second edition is planned to kick off in October 2016. We are expecting an extremely increased impact, especially as we are introducing new courses and methods based on an in-depth evaluation of the first edition.
Animation in Nigeria seems to be a male-dominated industry. Is there prejudice against women?
I do not think there is prejudice against anybody in the animation industry in Nigeria. I do feel that the lack of female presence in the industry is as a result of a lot of factors, one of them being that animation is a very tough area which needs 100% passion and dedication. In addition, the societal values in Nigeria and Africa as a whole deter women from going into this field as animation filmmakers tend to be “married” to their profession. Thus, I have seen a few women who started on very enthusiastic notes, even going as far as outside Nigeria to learn animation. They then returned to the country, got married, and nobody ever heard of them again. This is because you cannot combine being a good animation filmmaker with raising little children. As long as you are single, or your kids are out of the house, you can do this seamlessly as a woman.
For the full interview, watch out for Omenka magazine Film Issue…
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