Danjumah Ndanusa: Defining the next decade of African pop culture with Africa’s family sitcom “Meet the Igwes”

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He started as a motion graphics artist but over time evolved mostly by experimenting with different software to perfect his style. Over time a conversation with Magic Carpet Studios’ director led him to focus on cut-out animation. He sits with our interviewer to explore the magic of his mind.

Tell us about your journey into the animation industry?

I have been in the animation industry for three years now from when I joined Magic Carpet Studios. I started as a motion graphics artist but over time started to evolve mostly by experimenting with different softwares to perfect my style.

Over time a conversation with our director led me to focusing on cut-out animation. We decided to set-up that department and we are currently working on a couple of productions, for ourselves and for clients. Suffice to say, it’s been more of an adventure for me as I have had to learn and grow through the process.

The short film you directed “The Right Decision” won the award for sexual and gender-based violence at the 2021 Africa Film For Impact Festival Award, do you feel the short did what you had in mind?

The Right Decision was my short animated short created as part of the Dear Diary series. We believe act should be conscious and should in a way induce an awakening. The project was highly collaborative, so I celebrate all members of the team who participated in it, from the scripting to the voicing and everything in between.

Can you point to any aspect of your growing up years that influenced your present career in animation and the type of story you tell?

I really loved watching cartoons as a kid. I still remember waking as early as 4am just before school to watch cartoons. The feeling was just magical. When I create now, I want people to feel the same way when they watch what we create.

For me, we have to create stuff that can truly enrich the imagination of African children, help us connect with the sense of who we are, our culture, our history, our identity and deepen our sense of meaning.

You are often described as a socially conscious cartoonist, why should art be conscious and not just entertaining?

Art is consciousness, it’s everywhere. It is culture, it engages minds, it defines trends. Art is power. To know this is to know that it should transcend from entertaining to also push narratives alongside. I really do think we are in a part of the world where awareness of self and sense of connection is missing.

People have been far too conditioned by their experiences and can’t quite break out of that conduit. We position what we create as a tool for social constructivism and awakening. Although I don’t do labels, but if people describe me as that I am happy to contribute in any way.

You are directing your first sitcom “Meet the Igwes”, what are we to expect?

I really find myself in the story and a lot of families from my locality. I find my society, my government, my educational system. It’s a story I believe everyone will easily relate with as it not only entertains but tackles major challenges we face in our time

When is Meet the Igwes coming out?

I will say let’s keep our fingers crossed. We are done with voice recording but we are still creating assets and we are just getting into the animation process.

What is unique about magic carpet studios?

I think Magic Carpet embodies that spirit of Africa. There is something unique about African stories and what I enjoy about our studio is that we have always been deliberate not just about the quality of the art, but also the depth of the story and the type of story we want to tell.

There is an intentionality that I learnt here, just knowing what we are doing is bigger than us and for it to be a true gift to the world we have to put in the work and pay the price. We have a sense that our work is a calling. Whether it is the 2D feature film, which I believe will be a defining one in African storytelling, to meet the Igwes which I truly think is profound and phenomenal, to our animated shots, Sip and Super Dad.

What is your philosophy of art?

For me, art is about awakening. It is about helping humanity remember and connect to universal truth and shared story. Art is about breaking illusion with illusion, it is about questioning the norm, it is about engaging the mind. This is what art is to me.

You are part of a rock band. How have you been able to balance your passion for rock and your passion for animation?

I am passionate about music and about animation. I see what we are trying to build here and the team and I are also aware that the type of music I am about is missing in the space. I’d be lying if I say I have the perfect balance but I will say I have been flexible enough to know what needs more attention at a particular season.

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