My Two Year Old Daughter Falls in Love with an Unknown Indian Man
It’s surprising how we sometimes find inspiration in the most unusual places. For me, it is 12,000Km away from home, usually in the middle of the night. I often tinker away on my keyboard with my little girl beside me keeping an unusual late night with me. She would occasionally laugh out hysterically to some random YouTube videos.
“‘Nifemi, what’s that that’s so funny?”, I’d asked my 18months old little girl.
As she couldn’t speak clearly yet, she merely pointed to the iPad screen and managed to utter a gibberish word “thizz…” I went over to her, sat beside her as we continued watching the Indian animation film together. This we repeated several times.
Soon, I would hear my daughter saying some words or singing some familiar songs but I wouldn’t be able to connect the dots. So I’d just waive the thoughts aside and assume she’s speaking “baby language”. Six months later, ‘Nifemi could recite and recognize her letters and alphabets but strangely enough she would pronounce some of those letters with a weird but familiar Indian accent!
Then it dawned on me that my two-year old daughter, – a Nigerian girl – has been spending time with an unknown Indian man so much so that she’s now talking like him, singing his songs and learning his culture much more than she’s learnt from our rich African culture.
While I was excited about the prospect of my daughter being independent and having strong desire to learn at a very young age, I was particularly sad and heartbroken that she’s learning too much of foreign culture and traditions. I told myself “this cannot continue. I have to do something about this.”
In a frantic effort to save my little girl from being swept off her feet by this Indian man teaching her things, I went searching for “children cartoons and animations for African kids” so that she could learn a bit about her African origin, our stories, our rich cultural heritage, social and moral values. I wouldn’t even mind if she could also learn about our foods, else, one day, I fear she’d ask that we reduce her menu to the Indian Biryani, Curry rice and Korean Kimchi that she sees on YouTube or TV every day.
(This article is about my concern for lack of original educational and entertaining African cartoons and animations for African children. Through series of stories and analogies in this article, my goal is to encourage young Nigerians to take up programming and animation design and built great online contents and possibly a great African Startup.)
Unfortunately, my search for an African cartoon and animation contents for my daughter left me with nothing but one or two titles: the popular “Mark of Uru” that seems to have gone out of production together with “Bino and Fino” produced by the Nigeria-based animator, Adamu Waziri @BinoandFino.
While I was a bit excited that I found something, I was very sad for our nation and future children who may never have the opportunity to learn about Nigeria or their African origin due to a severe lack of original African contents for children. The only thing some children may learn about Africa will come from foreign media which undoubtedly will be filled with gravely negative contents and pictures of malnourished children.
Who Will Create African Contents For African Kids?
If there’s a dollar for every film, propaganda or fund-raising campaign that showcase Africa as a country rather than a continent, that show African children as hungry and poverty-stricken, and all African jumping from trees to trees like Tarzan, then it won’t come as a surprised than over a million dollar would be gathered.
The negative tactics that many humanitarian organizations employ when raising funds to line their coffers make my stomach churn in disgust. Not only are NGOs and media leveraging such misery videos and images to appeal to peoples’ emotions, some companies also seem to have deemed it fit to make business out of it.
I recently saw billboard ads for a new product from South Korea’s largest tobacco company named “Africa”. The smokers were unabashedly characterized as animals, monkeys and apes… all smoking and dancing to the tunes from traditional African percussion instruments.
In their defense, the spokesperson of the company said “we absolutely had no intention to offend anyone and only chose monkeys because they are delightful animals that remind people of Africa, (Seriously!?)”
A Korean airline also that just expanded their flying destinations to Kenya also decided to show pictures of African Safari, lions, elephant, monkeys and other animals as reasons for people to fly to “Africa”. Not a single human was shown in the almost 120 seconds ads.
What a depravity!
Almost every night on at least one popular foreign TV channel, you’ll either see a reality show or a fundraising campaign advert by celebrities where African children are depicted as grotesque, depraved, naked, and helpless victims of war, diseases and famine.
These are the images the media show, these are the ideas and opinions that they want the people to have about Africa and Africans and of course these are what most people know about Africa.
No wonder when I arrived in South Korea few years ago, many Koreans who rarely see black people (except on TV) were either scared and almost sh!t their pants in fear. The brave ones among them that managed to speak with me just do not know whether they should coo and shout like Tarzan to speak with me. Many Koreans are still surprised when I speak English to them. They do not understand why an African can speak English so well.
But in all these, the underlining challenges are the same – how do we change or replace the story of misery and calamity that foreigners have about Africans with inspiring stories of creativity, talent and rich cultural heritage that can make respectable human connections?
How can we create enduring legacies that our children can learn from and be proud of? How do we let children with African origin learn about their rich cultural heritage, create a sense of identity, pride, patriotism, social and moral values in our children? So that every child with an African origin would be proud to lift up their hands in public and confidently talk about their African heritage.
One by One, a Little Here, a Little There…
We can change the negative perception about our country and many other African countries. Truly, there are many positive developments in African that the West regularly ignores. We should give more attention to positive developments in Africa and change the simplistic explanations of crisis, poverty and AIDS the uninformed world have about us.
African children in Diaspora should have a reference point and a connection to their African culture. We should give our children something close to the experience we had while growing up where our grandparents will seat us on their laps and tell us moonlight stories about great African legends, mythologies, fantasy stories and several other tales and fables. We should bring those wonderful experiences to our children in 2D or 3D animation films in a way they would understand and connect with.