In Africa, the oral tradition of passing down folklore over generations is still alive and well. The methods of storytelling have changed, but the necessity still exists. The founders of Kugali Media are dedicated to delivering contemporary African stories in comics and animated media.
There is a tendency in Western countries to exclude Africans from modern storytelling or otherwise dictate a hollow representation of them. This led to the creation of Afrofuturism—a genre or aesthetic that blends elements of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, and Afrocentrism. Artists like Sun Ra, Parliament-Funkadelic, and Octavia Butler helped shape a vision of the African diaspora in the future. Subsequently, Kugali Media look to continue to re-imagine what that future could look like.
Initially, they started as a blog and podcast, then they published Kugali Magazine, which led to a Kickstarter campaign to produce a Kugali Anthology. 775 backers from all around the world came together to crowdfund the UK-based project. Since then, founders Ziki Nelson, Tolu Foyeh, and Hamid Ibrahim have developed a second anthology, along with a Raki edition (a version for mature audiences). They also launched a Patreon account and YouTube channel.
Kugali Media has racked up impressive accomplishments in just the last three years. Recently, they were the subject of a BBC Stories documentary that aired on January 10. This is just the beginning. The publisher looks to expand into animation, video games, and even Augmented Reality (AR) soon.
Kugali comes from a Swahili phrase, “A-Kujali,” meaning “something that matters.” It’s easy to see what they’re doing as positive, because there is a need for authentic African representation in the medium. Moreover, it’s refreshing to see Africans take on the task, put together a Pan-African collective of creators, and create something new with respect for the rich history that preceded it. Instead of continuing to wait for non-African creators to show the same care, they took the opportunity to create a solution.
The results are reminiscent of what Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T. Dingle did with Milestone Media—a groundbreaking initiative to publish superhero books starring people of color. Kugali brought together 15 native creators from various African countries on both anthologies. In addition, they showcase African artwork and spotlight up and coming artists. It says a lot that they’ve worked this hard to create an inclusive community.
Social media creates a straightforward forum to connect with like-minded individuals, so it’s inspiring to see creators use it constructively. Their blog/podcast came first, setting the table for expansion into future projects. It’s admirable to see they didn’t abandon the community they built, because it seems so integral to the message of Kugali. This creates the chance to educate audiences about African culture, promote African artists, and entertain all at the same time.
We here at Do You Even Comic Book commend the work Kugali Media is doing. Representation is important, but it’s just as essential to build a community within geek culture. Their visibility will inevitably inspire more projects, and that only furthers their goal to see more stories within the genre with African characters.
If you want to support them, you can go to their website where you can purchase the first and second volume of their anthology. You can also keep up with what they’re working on next through their Patreon, YouTube channel, and Twitter page.