The Rebirth of an Industry in Zimbabwe

The Rebirth of an Industry in Zimbabwe

Written by Simbirirai Solomon Maramba

I started this post and restarted it a number of times. it is a little daunting to write about what I consider to be a rebirth of an industry, especially when I see myself as one of the children of the continent taking those baby steps. There was an era of animation in Zimbabwe before 2000 which we can cover in another article. This story is about the time after 2000…

Once upon a time there was an energy and desire that found its way into the hearts, hands and minds of some special individuals in a nation called Zimbabwe (This is probably a story that can be told around Africa). These special people whom I will call Animators found themselves inspired to create life as it were, a lot of them did this in a digital space. A new world that intrigued the young at heart by the universe of possibilities it opened up to the expression of their imagination in a way that others could share in their fantasies. They almost always began their  journey into this digital world of animation all on their own stumbling, retracing their steps, returning to maps, discarding the maps and finding their own way. All the while feeling alone and misunderstood. For some reason, which we shall refer to as Destiny they somehow began to gravitate towards each other, not knowing the others existed. A spark of was generated when the first few came into contact with each other which energised and further drew the animators together.

The Joint Afrikan Animation Group was a result of this energy and desire for the animators to work towards developing their craft and searching out other souls with the same energy. It was conceptualized in in March 2007 by Marvel Banda, Nqobizitha Mlilo and Solomon Maramba, the Joint Afrikan Animation Group (JAAG) first existed as an online network bringing a few people together  from around the world, the largest participation being from Africa and most dominant Zimbabwe.

The Joint Afrikan Animation Group (JAAG) is composed of practitioners involved in animation and visual effects with a focus on developing a viable visual effects and animation industry in Africa.

In 2008, JAAG members from Zimbabwe actually met for the first time and began to work towards the development of the local animation industry. The inaugural meeting was attended by 30 people or so, comprised of animators, visual effects artists and students.

Those first few sparks were Marvel Banda, Nqobizitha Mlilo, Carl Joshua Ncube, Claire Dongo, Rufaro Rutherford Dhliwayo, Shingai Mtezo and Simbirirai Solomon Maramba who were the first committee to work for the cause. In 2010 the first board was elected from the group with Chairman Simbirirai Solomon Maramba and Vices Claire Dongo and Carl Joshua Ncube. This executive was in place for 3 years, end of 2012 when a new executive and board was elected with Carl Joshua Ncube at the helm.

The first 3 years were a time of some growth and learning with a huge amount of support from all sectors. We have been privy, through the most difficult time economically for Zimbabwe,  to  the following

  • The birth of Zimbabwe Festival of Afrikan Inspired Animation (ZIMFAIA), the first international animation festival in Sub saharan Africa with great support from Alliance Francaise de Harare and the Zimbabwe International Film Festival right from the outset.
  • The partnering of ZIMFAIA, a young festival,  with auspicious festivals such as The International Festival of TrickFilm in Stuttgart and  ANNECY (MIFA) which are the two largest animation festivals and animation film markets in the world, ASIFA Egypt, Annecy OFF and Kunjanimation in South Africa,  rapidly growing and  potentially nexus festivals for the animation world.
  • Recognition of the existence  of a contributing high potential industry by Government of Zimbabwe through engagement through the National Census with the sector being recognised and recorded and the ICT achievers award for Computer Graphics, which is a new category in 2012 awarded by the Ministry of ICT. Nominees included a number of the participants in JAAG and the award went to Nafuna TV, established by a founding member of JAAG Nqobizitha Mlilo
  • Growth of the industry through educational institutions such as ZIVA and the establishment of Global Academy in 2011 with ZIFTESSA looking at adding to the number in 2013
  • Schools outreach with animation being discussed as a career option in High Schools and a great wave of children teaching themselves animation and the tools  for developing it
  • Holding the JAAG Conference which brought together industry players to map the direction of the industry annually
  • Facilitating the branding of ZIFF (2010, 2011)
  • Workshops and mentoring by many industry participants in their personal capacity, as companies and in partnership with other organisations and festivals such as the Zimbabwe International Film Festival and IIFF
  • Growth of the next generation of animators and Visual effects artists from as young as 5 years old.
  • The inclusion of an animation award at ZIFF and the subsequent nomination and winning of that and young Director to watch by Tafadzwa Tarumbwa
  • Interaction and formulation of projects with  broadcasters ZBC and Blackbury enterprises
  • Contribution to the Arts and Culture sector through participation in fora  such as the National Indaba on Arts and Culture  and The Film Indaba
  • Coming together in productions such as Carl Joshua Ncube’s The Big Announcement, Producing Heart of Hearts as part of the Short Film Project at ZIF

The potential is there, the desire is rampant and the energy is going dzzt-dzzzzt just below the surface. To the growth of a vibrant African Digital Art industry.

As Tafadzwa Tarumbwa says… now so do we all