Nigerian animator seeks crowdfunding to bring a black children’s cartoon to Brazil
By BW of Brazil with information from Cartoon Brew and CNN
Race in Brazil, Africa and its people, blackness and media representation. All themes that permeate this blog and in continuing focus on these areas, today we re-visit a topic that has been bubbling over within Afro-Brazilian-oriented social networks for some time. Several months ago, we presented here a cartoon produced in Colombia featuring black characters that was to be shown on Brazilian television, a first for Brazilian TV. Today, we present another exciting project that we hope will put some color into Brazil’s ultra Eurocentric media programming.
Black Brazilian women in support of Bino and Fino For Brazil Fundraiser
From Nigeria, animator Adamu Waziri has been pitching his cartoon series Bino and Fino to various markets around the world and has found success in several countries in Europe as well as developing a following in the United States. Now, Waziri, along with his brother Ibrahim, hope to find success in Brazil, a country in which one only sees black families, culture and themes with black characters in leading roles when the production is imported from other countries, specifically the United States.
Interview with Bino and Fino creator Adamu Waziri
Waziri has stated that the objective of his cartoon is to portray a more accurate representation of children who are growing up on the African continent. He was also concerned about the way that Africa is presented in the Western media. Speaking on the topic, he said:
“When Disney does something about Africa, you get singing animals, safari. You don’t see any buildings, you don’t see any people in a house, you don’t see people living a normal urban life, like in Lagos, Abuja, wherever in Africa you are.”
Surprising as it may seem (or perhaps not), Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer and other cartoons that have no African characters are regularly featured in Nigerian television programming. That’s Nigeria…you know, the most populous black nation in Africa. In fact, as Waziri reveals, African children only watch cartoons that are imported from the West. Thus, the cartoonist decided to take matters into his own hands creating Bino and Fino, a cartoon series targeted at children aged 3-5 years old and featuring a brother and sister living with their grandparents in a city located in Africa. Touching upon aspects of African history and culture, Waziri wanted to show children that depictions of starving people is not all that exists in Africa, but rather a vibrant middle class in which people have the same aspirations as others in any other part of the world.
Waziri’s cartoon caught the attention of a number of black Brazilians who were delighted with the project and who are now taking steps to try and help bring the series to Brazilian television. This has led to the creation of a crowd funding campaign that seeks to raise the necessary funds to push the project forward. To introduce the campaign to our readers, we caught up with Adamu’s brother and partner in the project, Ibrahim, to learn a little more about how this project came about and its objectives. Below is an interview.
BW of Brazil: Please tell our readers your name, where you’re from and your profession
IW: My name is Ibrahim Waziri from Nigeria. I am one of the executive directors of the African educational cartoon series called Bino and Fino.
BW of Brazil: Please tell us a little about the media situation in Nigeria.
IW: Media is a booming sector in Nigeria. The Nigerian film industry known as Nollywood is the third largest producer of movies after Hollywood and Bollywood.
BW of Brazil: How did the idea of the cartoon with black children characters come about? Do you have black children cartoon characters on Nigerian TV?
IW: In Nigeria, there is close to very little animated cartoon shows that are produced locally. Basically the world’s largest black nation doesn’t produce cartoon shows for its children that reflected any of its culture or population. This was crazy to us and we felt we needed to address this imbalance.
BW of Brazil: Is your cartoon being shown on Nigerian TV?
IW: Interesting question. Bino and Fino has been aired several times on Nigeria television but due to the fact that acquiring air time is extremely expensive it makes it almost impossible for shows to have rotation unless they are being backed by a corporate sponsor.
BW of Brazil: Are you familiar with any black cartoons from the United States?
IW: I certainly am. I remember watching African American cartoon programs such as, Fat Albert, and Bebe’s Kids, and the Proud Family when I was growing up.
BW of Brazil: Do you have any plans to bring the cartoon to the US market? Do you think it’s more urgent to get it on TV in Brazil?
IW: More than 80 percent of our DVD sales comes from the US. At the moment we are talking with several networks regarding carriage when we finish the full season in Brazil and the US. We are not in a hurry to get it onto TV unless we know the network is the right fit for our property. Though I can appreciate that many people would want to see the show on a mainstream channel, we now live in an age where content can be watched on multiple platforms on an a la carte basis. Netflix is a great case study of this model. For the mean time the show can be seen on several online channels such as Kweli Tv, RainbowMe and Afroland TV
BW of Brazil: From what you know, what is your impression of Brazilian TV in terms of racial representation?
IW: I believe a lot of work needs to be done regarding representation of Brazil’s Afro-Brasilian population. It’s a delicate situation that needs to be handled well but needs to be addressed quickly. If a population of over 100 million people cannot see themselves in the shows that they consume locally then you have a problem on your hands. It also doesn’t make good business sense as they are a growing percentile of Brazil’s emerging middle class so of course they are going to want content that is going to reflect their perspective. Some progress has been made though with the ground breaking new series called Mr Brau, but of course more can be done.
BW of Brazil: How did the idea come about to bring this cartoon to the Brazilian market?
IW: It was English speaking Brazilian fans of the show that made us fast track our plans to create a Brazilian Portuguese dubbed version of the show. They kept asking us if and when we would do a Portuguese version for them. That prompted us to look into the children’s media landscape in Brazil. Brazil has the largest African descendant population outside of the continent of Africa. It is even more than that of the US. It has deep historical roots to the continent. However this crucial link isn’t being shown or taught to the children of Brazil. African history and culture is not being fully represented in their children’s media let alone people of African descent. Our Brazilian fan base have been following our channel on YouTube and Facebook page. Through several years of interaction with them we felt this was the right time to embark on this project.
Bino and Fino: The Mighty Walls of Benin
So there you have it. Another example of a necessity, the desire to a fill a void, taking initiative and not waiting on something to just happen. After viewing a few clips of this program on You Tube, this writer can only hope that this project continues to succeed and expand its brand’s audience. A cartoon series such as this one is sorely lacking in Brazil and the country’s major networks have repeatedly shown that they have no interest in addressing the vast under-representation of Afro-Brazilian characters, families and issues on the small screen. In fact, the top networks seem to be quite committed to and comfortable with its continuous depictions of Afro-Brazilians in roles of subservience. Case in point, in a past article we detailed how Brazil’s TV networks continues showing novelas (soap operas) based in the slavery era; an era in which many black actors would obviously be necessary. It seems that slavery-era features are about the only time that Afro-Brazilian actors make up more than 10% of any given TV series’ cast. As we speak, the nation’s two top television networks (Globo and Record) are both preparing to release new novelas based in the slavery era.
It is for this reason and many others that it is vital that people support such projects such as Bino and Fino. The bottom line is, if we don’t do it, Brazil’s mainstream certainly won’t! But in order to make this happen, people must support with a financial contribution. We all know how important racial representation in the media is so this is an opportunity to do something about it. If you agree, please go to the campaign’s IndieGoGo link or click on the link below and contribute whatever you can to this crowd funding campaign. If you can’t come up $100, $50 or $25, donate $10. Every little bit helps. The project seeks to raise US$5,000 to proceed with the project. 500 people donating $10 apiece would guarantee this.
Here’s your chance to help little black Brazilian children see characters that look like themselves. Let’s make it happen! An African Cartoon TV Show For Kids In Brazil