5 Things To Know About Comics In Africa

David Kipre

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1- What are the main stages in the history of African comics?

It all started during the colonial era, in particular, publishing necessarily came from Europe, since there are no comics coming from Africa, strictly speaking.

The French-speaking countries, after their independence, launched themselves in this perspective thanks to the support of the Catholic churches implanted on their territory. It is especially the “Kouakou era”, a popular quarterly, produced in France by the publisher Segedo, financed by the French Cooperation, which was distributed free to African children between 1963 and 1998.

From the beginning of the 1990s, freedom of the press took off considerably, which affected the milieu, initially in the face of the satirical works produced by the publishing houses. Moreover, the economic crises that shook Africa in full reconstruction, did not give the choice to this type of work, that to be reoriented towards a public much more inclined to the reading of this kind of literary work. This is where the NGOs come in, using it as a key means of communication in their awareness campaigns.

2- Who reads comics in Africa?

In spite of the fact that African society is reluctant to read, we can notice an emerging interest in comics among young people. Indeed, young Africans combine childhood and passion through the reading of these literary works, which unlike adults, do not see the importance. (For them, it is too “childish” and “very expensive for nothing”.

Although there is a press for young people in Cameroon, in which comics are sometimes published, the specialized press still has difficulty in establishing itself in the milieu.

It is necessary to note a certain alienation on the part of our African people with regard to “reading for pleasure”, a very important tool for personal development and success, both academic and personal. It is strange to note that the production of these comics, assimilated to children’s reading, is rather oriented towards adults.

3- How are comics published in Africa?

The field of comics sales in Africa is not very open. In most cases, it is a matter of gathering funds from a certain community in order to promote the work, which sometimes aims to convey a message to the population. The financing and therefore the distribution of these works will be done entirely by cultural and educational organizations (schools, hospitals, charities, etc.)

However, there are two ways of publishing comics in Africa for commercial purposes. First, the one carried out by publishers: as it was the case of six commercial albums published in Morocco these last twelve years and, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, except for the Elondja editions (with five mini albums since 2004).

Then, the second concerns self-produced comics, called popular, distributed at a low price and quantity, with a somewhat desirable quality. This is oriented towards a rather modest public.

4- Is it possible to have an African comic book in the local language?

With the linguistic differences very present in Africa, it is rare to find such works. Most of these works in French-speaking countries are only produced by NGOs in order to raise awareness in a target area, or for information purposes. In English-speaking countries, comics in the local language are sold in bookstores and in economic circuits, for example, the Kenyan publisher Sasa Sema published five of its nine albums in Swahili in the 1990s, which were sold in both Kenya and Tanzania. In Guinea Bissau, the Julio brothers have also published extensively in their native language, which is Portuguese Creole (Krioul).

5- Do cartoonists earn a decent living?

Focal point and probably very interesting for our dear readers, the answer is unfortunately no. Already produced in a not very profitable environment due to its public and its almost absent field, on the African continent, the comic strip is not very profitable to its drawer, it would be squarely a priesthood in Africa. And to be able to hold on, another source of income would have to be in support… Considered as a waste of time and an amusement for most of the African inhabitants, it would be unlikely to see a gain through this activity. It is from this image that comes the desire of some young Africans, to immigrate in order to make a reputation and a life based on their passion, because Africa has a gift for killing newborn eggs

However! Some designers however remain despite the difficulties

-The Senegalese T.T. Fons who created a very popular character (Goorgoorlou) which was even adapted into a television series, the Beninese Hector Sonon, the Malagasy Pov who lives from his press cartoons as an employee of the newspaper L’Express in Mauritius or the creator of the newspaper Gbich!, Lassane Zohoré.

We could also mention other figures such as the few African cartoonists who work in Europe and still live in their own country: Laval Ng (Mauritius), Thembo Kash or Barly Baruti (Democratic Republic of Congo), of course, who already have a good production behind them. But one should not compare the situation in Europe with that of Africa, because even there it would be very difficult to make a name or at least a gain in this field.

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