Nigeria’s film industry branded Nollywood, produces on average 1,500 films per year making it the largest film industry in Africa and globally, second only to India’s Bollywood.
Nollywood, the third largest film industry in the world is Nigeria’s second main employer after agriculture, estimated at $50 billion annually.
Some of its popular actors include Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Mike Ezuruonye, Kenneth Okonkwo, Desmond Elliot, Ramsey Nouah, Van Vicker (from Ghana) and Richard Mofe Damijo (RMD) and Mercy Johnson Okojie.
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The actors are notable names in various African homes for the modern-day dramas they feature in but for some, the over reliance on drama needs to be curtailed.
Animations and African mythology movies hardly appear on film menus for those inclined to feed on. Sensing an opportunity in it, YouNeek Studios’ Roye Okupe, who is a comics publisher is seeking to scale up his operations after publishing Malika: Warrior Queen as a graphic novel for years.
The Malika’s central character is inspired by Queen Amina, a 16th century queen who ruled in parts of Nigeria’s northwest. Okupe has produced an animated 15-minute short film which he expects to be the precursor to a full length feature.
“I really wanted to do something deeply rooted in African history, culture and mythology. These are things they don’t teach us in schools in Nigeria because we learn more about foreign history than our own. I didn’t know about Queen Amina growing up,” Okupe submitted.
Okupe’s offering is ripe given Lagos just hosted an annual Comic Con since 2012 with several companies and creators showcasing characters and stories in front of thousands.
With the larger Nollywood industry witnessing a renewed interest in its quality production with increased attendance at local cinemas, filmmakers are hopeful of steady revenue streams and profits.
Okupe plans to spend the coming months showcasing Malika: Warrior Queen at festivals and pitching to major studios in a bid to take African mythology stories global. “There’s no reason why our children shouldn’t be able to turn on their TVs and see characters like this rooted in Africa,” he says.
There are already signs that an animated story which explores African history and mythology could have some appeal, even among Nollywood’s core establishment. Niyi Akinmolayan, director of The Wedding Party 2 and Chief Daddy—two of Nigeria’s highest-ever grossing movies, served as executive producer of Malika while the lead character of Malike, was voiced by Adesua Etomi, one of Nollywood’s biggest stars. Beyond Nollywood, the film has also raised eyebrows, scooping the award for best animated short at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards in July.
To bring the graphic novel to life through film, Okupe bore production costs, although he got $20,000 raise from Kickstarter. A crew of 30 worked to reflect the African presence from costume to architectural design taking 12 months.