In recent years learning for school going children has been made more interactive and entertaining. From counting to writing, creative medium have been adopted to help students learn in a different way.
Some local TV channels for instance have been showing local educative animation programs for children using Kiswahili and the results have been positive. Students are able to relate more to these programmes.
All this creative change has been made possible by people who have been working diligently to ensure that both our culture and values are preserved and at the same time promoted in an innovative way.
James Kapondo, who works in animation, is one among those leading the creative learning path. When he started learning about animation five years ago, he was only doing it for fun; little did he know that his mere interest on the subject will turn out to be something big.
Today, like many other young animators across the world he has been taking the visual world by storm by using animation as a method of delivering everything from entertainment to information through an accessible medium.
And in recognising and celebrating such efforts, on 28 October each year, an annual International Animation Day is celebrated, it’s a day set to identify the people behind the industry and their efforts.
This year, as a way of raising public awareness on the local animation industry, a 4-day creative and technical event titled Swahili Animation Convention was organised and brought together digital artists, students, youth, film experts, parents and other stakeholders.
Themed Katuni Zetu. Utamaduni Wetu, the convention also aimed at promoting the use of animation films that express local culture and values.
“Animation has opened doors to many people, particularly youth who are struggling to look for job opportunities everyday. Animation is everywhere these days, and most children have been raised watching animation. Starting with cartoons to video games and movies, our view of the world has often been shaped by this amazing art form,” says James who is also a 3D lab manager.
However, the animator says in Tanzania the belief that animation is for entertain is still deeply embedded and it requires a lot of effort to convince an adult that animation programmes such as cartoons can educate, their perception over the years has been that cartoons are just cartoons meant for children to watch just for fun, they don’t believe that an older age group can watch animated cartoons with an educative message within the story line.
“This is why we have tried to be more creative when making our animations so that instead of our characters having funny exaggerated features, we use fruits and vegetable for instance as characters so that our animations become more educative for all,” he noted.
To make it more informative and educative, Swahili language has been actively used when creating the animation programs and according to James the aim is to see that not only people, particularly children understand it well, but also to see that the language use grows hence promoting our culture
“We want to see that our language is given more value. Yes we could have decided to use another international language such as English but at this stage we want the students to become more familiar with their national language and maybe later English will be incorporated,” he says, adding; “We want to see children, particularly students take more interest in watching our local animation programs which are produced using the language they can understand better.”
He says the convention has opened new opportunities for animators like him because of the recognition it has started to receive, “there was a time when I thought of stopping doing animation and going into farming but now I see things are changing for the better because of the recognition we keep receiving,” James says.
He adds that the Ministry of Education for instance now understands that animation can play a big role in educating students. This gives animators hope that in the years to come children in Tanzania will be watching more local animated programs.
In five years to come, their target is to see that each household can have access to a locally produced children animation program, “we have done enough research and we understand what we need to do to ensure that children’s interest in our local animation programs grows. I always believe that if you want to make something good then it has to be genuine,” he says.
Explaining in detail what animation is all about, Anael Kihunrwa, the Chief Executive Officer of African Institute for Digital Innovation said animation is a process of creating moving images in quick succession.
“Each image differs from the previous image very slightly, and it is this difference that creates the movement in the sequence. Traditionally, animated sequences were created by pictures and paintings drawn by hand but today, thanks to technological advances it has been made possible for artists to create images directly on a computer,’’ explains the CEO.
Despite the bright future that lays ahead in the animation industry, there are a number of challenges that have been derailing the same. According to Anael, creativeness among animators has been an issue hence making it difficult for their programs to get the recognition they deserve
“This industry has a lot of opportunities for those who go the extra mile and become more creative and it can employ quite a number of people as well because it is the kind of job that doesn’t need a lot of infrastructure such as huge office space or lots of machines. A computer can be a studio for someone to learn and work in animation hence creating new job opportunities,” says Anaeli.
The expert adds that apart from the potential for growth projected in the animation industry, a lot of opportunities lie in this part of the world compared to Europe, but fully capitalizing on this potential will depend on how animation is used to communicate to people because a large population lives in rural areas, faced with so many challenges. “Through animation, such problems in rural areas can be used as a chance to come up with solutions to solving them. This can be done through educating people and raising awareness on different matters,’ Anaeli explains.
According to Anaeli, few families have invested in taking their children to learn about animation course because of the cost and the perception they have about it although he admits that the situation is changing with time.
“The community of animators isn’t that big, for instance since we started in 2004 we have trained around 60 students. However more are needed to meet the demands of customers. Sometimes the animators available in the industry produce the wrong material that doesn’t fit the demands of the market. We have a lot of TV stations which can use our work therefore its high time we do a lot of research and invest in generating good stories that will have positive impact,” he noted.
Sandra Martin, 12, a Standard Six pupil says she has been a great fan of local children programs because they are so educative.
“I always find time together with my younger sister to watch programs like Akili on the national broadcasting channel. We learn in a fun way a lot of things that we are taught in school,” explains Sandra.
Doreen Kazimoto, a graphics designer working with an advertisement company in town says time has changed and therefore women have a chance to make it big in the animation industry.
“There is a belief that this kind of job is meant for men only but I don’t think that is the case, we are capable of doing a lot if we get to learn the ins and outs of this field. Women understand better how other women feel, so if they master animation then they have an opportunity to create programs that will benefit their fellow women in areas such as health and parenting to mention a few,” Doreen explains.