Kugali: Showcasing and Creating the Best African Comics and Stories

For fans of comics, it goes without saying that African comics have minimal visibility and therefore receive minimal traction on the global stage. The founders of Kugali Media are on a mission to change this.  If you have ever wondered where you can get comics about Africa by Africans then Kugali, Africa’s largest comic network, is the place. From the Kugali Anthology, which is released quarterly, one can immerse themselves in exciting stories, such as “Lake of Tears”, an urban fantasy of three individuals who are forced to work as child labourers in Ghana’s fishing industry, and “Razor Man” a vigilante who is determined to fight against corruption and crime in his country. The themes of these stories are authentically African with the bonus being that they are produced by Africans.The up and coming media house Kugali, which curates and promotes African comics, video games and animations, was founded by Ziki Nelson, Hamid Ibrahim and Tolu Foyeh who together have backgrounds in animation, web development and creative writing. The brand name Kugali is coined from a Swahili phrase “A kujali” which means “something that matters”. Indeed it matters that African creative talent and stories, told in the unique fashion of comics, are showcased for the world to see by this talented team.

Co-Founder Ziki Nelson explains that he grew up captivated by the “Colonial Mentality” which has blinded many into looking down on their own culture while embracing cultures that are external to their own. It was not until he got into his 20s and observed his young brothers, that he realised the existence and problem of this mind-set. He then felt that he had the power to change this narrative and allow others like his brothers to embrace and celebrate African culture.

In addition to the strong desire to change attitudes and narratives surrounding African culture, Ziki drew inspiration from East Asian media particularly Japanese media, where Manga and Anime have become global phenomenons. These have a clear cultural distinction from Western comics. For Ziki, if the Japanese are able to remain true to their culture while telling stories that capture global hearts and attention, there is no reason why Africans cannot do the same through stories that draw from diverse and unique African cultures and experiences.   

The fact that African comics do not attract a global audience means that there is a gap in the market for African comics to thrive. Through the creation of an anthology, magazine and the use of other channels, Kugali has the chance to tell stories that are new and unique to Africa. Africans live the African experience across a spectrum that encompasses rich cultures and traditions to beautiful nature, as well as negative social and human rights issues. Africans are therefore best placed to tell these stories and bring them to life on paper and screen.

For their amazing work, Kugali’s growing success in bringing African comics to the mainstream speaks for itself. Kugali’s first magazine was released in June 2017, through a Kickstarter campaign which raised £25,451,and recently Kugali was featured on BBC stories. This has had unprecedented results and has led to new opportunities and more attention for the media house.

The big aim for Kugali in the years to come is to keep telling African narratives but on a larger scale, and to ultimately become a media powerhouse with the goal of diversifying into other forms of media, such as animated cartoons and video games. Unfortunately, unlike Western countries, Africa does not have established systems and infrastructure that can aid with the distribution of content. Creativity when it comes to distribution is therefore essential in order for Kugali to distribute more content.

With this unique brand already grabbing global attention, it is without a doubt that in the coming years Kugali will play a key role in bringing African narratives to a global audience.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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