Monday, October 21, 2019

Nollywood Animation - Malika: Warrior Queen

Today I came across this thrilling Nollywood animation tiled Malika: Warrior Queen.  It rings special for me because way back in the days when I was writing my thesis on Jamaican film I was then asking questions about the production of animated features that were informed by traditional African cultural themes that informed our childhood, and in particular my African-Jamaican childhood.  So to come across a production such as this that anchors itself in African mythology is particularly thrilling.

I have in the past written about Jamaica themed comics as in the Dread and Alive series which was inspired by the Jamaica Maroons, and where the writer takes the creative license to mix in some fact with fiction to create a uniquely Jamaican superhero, but still the space remains open in Africa and the diaspora for more creators to come forward and fill us with some unique experiences that we have probably contemplated in folk culture, but never really made it beyond that. 

Well, some of us may be in for a visual treat we always believed exists, but that we had not yet seen.  As this Quartz Africa story titled, Nollywood is one step closer to its first major animated cinema production tells us from an interview with Roye Okupe, a comics publisher and founder of YouNeek Studios,
After years of publishing Malika: Warrior Queen as a graphic novel with its central character inspired by Queen Amina, a 16th century queen who ruled in parts of Nigeria’s northwest, Okupe has stepped things up with an animated 15-minute short film which he expects to be the precursor to a full length feature."  
Have a look at the thrilling short film below:



I think the imagery is beautiful and very empowering for us as Africans who want to celebrate our culture. As the article tells us the short will be making the rounds at various film festivals and also shown to those who may be interested in producing a full length feature film.  As Roye says, “There’s no reason why our children [and adults] shouldn’t be able to turn on their TVs and see characters like this rooted in Africa.” I agree and I certainly wish this production well.

You may check out the company's website at YouNeek Studios where you can get some free comics or follow them on Facebook using this link.  Please feel free to share and also ask your kids what they think about this.


Jamaica's Intellectual Property Challenge



On Friday October 18, 2019 Jamaica's Emancipation Park played home to a free Christian concert named Sunday Service hosted by Kanye West, which was the first of the international leg of his proselytising series, and with its own hashtag #SundayServiceJA. 

Photo courtesy of Garfield Robinson, Jamaica Observer

The concert was not without controversy, as Kanye is known to attract, and as this Jamaica Gleaner article about "Upstaging Heroes Weekend" outlines, but the issue that elicited my response was the issue surrounding Kanye’s use of Jamaican intellectual property, specifically official national symbols and emblems, to produce and sell merchandise off and online for the event. 

Image courtesy of www.shop.kanyewest.com

The most recent controversy caused me to go back into my blogs for a post made on September 26, 2010 titled, Licensing Brand Jamaica, that suggested how Jamaica could handle these matters, that I anticipated back then. The controversial merchandise could have been licensed and the government would have been collecting some kind of revenue in theory.  Unfortunately however, seemingly nothing was ever put in place to handle scenarios where persons or entities could be marketed the idea of obtaining licenses to use certain Jamaican symbols or iconography for commercial purposes.

Image courtesy of www.shop.kanyewest.com

Below is a paragraph from that 2010 post that contemplated an approach to handling these matters for Jamaica: 
I have often wondered if the government, perhaps through the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office, has examined licensing Jamaican properties in a similar fashion to how the city of New York has established NYC & Company Licensing to handle the business of licensing the City’s intellectual property. As a result, all official merchandise from the New York City police, taxi, fire department, parks and recreation, and the transport department benefit the city. We know that there is merchandise sold with the Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Negril and Kingston city/town names and replicas of other property. Then there is Jamaica Tourist Board’s signature 'JAMAICA' trademark and related property that serve tourism... I wonder to what extent local business, and by extension the state, could benefit from greater sales of products around these properties? This is certainly a business opportunity.

Since the outcry on social media for clearly what was an oversight (or more accurately a matter that was not even contemplated in the least) by the relevant authorities, the minister of culture was forced to act as the Jamaica Observer newspaper reports in this story, Pull the merch, Kanye, "government requests that West removes items with national symbols from online store." Of course, nobody really wins here, when the outcome could have been very different.

This is a sad outcome, because if there was a sales trend it is likely broken for the moment. In fact, a visit to the website (https://shop.kanyewest.com) today asks that I sign up for further updates. The newspaper goes further to say that the minister will "re-establish a committee to devise a strategy to deal with the proper use of our emblems and symbols, as she is aware that other vendors are selling Jamaica-branded products."  I wonder just how this will be tackled because not all Jamaica-branded products can be claimed to belong to the state, so in one sense all this may become an academic exercise bearing very little fruit.

The good thing is that licensing opportunities in which the government or its entities can participate still abound for some Jamaican merchandise, but as with everything, having the right partners, execution and knowing what you're doing makes all the difference.  

The minister has my best wishes, and I certainly hope they are able to create something meaningful that will redound to the benefit of the good Jamaican people. 



Zouzoukwa African Emojis For You

I came across a story today that I think is really cool and I want to make the quick share.  There are so many positives that are happening for African entertainment and cultural enterprises and sometimes it is hard to keep up, but I think this one is worth the pause to acknowledge how good it is.


The story is about Zouzuokwa, an African emoji app that contains more than 350 downloadable emojis with West African cultural references, that also resonate in the African diaspora. This was created by the 21-year old O’Plerou Felix Grebet (linked to his Instagram) from Côte d'Ivoire.

Here's a short BBC video interview of the creator... 



Having grown up in Jamaica the icon of the app is immediately recognizable as what we call 'suck suck', a lovable childhood treat. It is basically any flavored drink, bagged and frozen, and when ready for consumption you suck the contents from one end of the bag.

Needless to say I've downloaded that app and looked through the emojis and I love them. My contacts can expect that I'll be using them.

You can download the app by clicking the link for your respective store, the Apple store or the Google Play store.  Get it and share it with your family and friends.  This is indeed a moment that's better with family and friends.


Thursday, August 22, 2019

My Views on Jay-Z, Kaepernick and the NFL


I've taken a few days to formulate my opinion on this matter.  Snoop Dogg in an interview on the Breakfast Club published on August 21, 2019 gave a perspective that speaks to me, and Charlemange Tha God was also of a similar view, that the question is why do we need to pit one (Colin Kaepernick) against the other (Jay-Z)?

This Is Not A Contest, It's Not An Either Or
For our sake, and the cause of addressing injustice, we should want both these individuals to succeed because both have a role to play in keeping the attention on the unwarranted killing of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement - this is presumably the objective and not some other agenda that keeps us distracted. Take a listen to Snoop's comments here:




I have seen that many who have commented are more concerned about their own agendas and pushing ideological positions that are more distractions than adding clarity to an understanding of what we are witnessing. I think we should be careful we don't get carried away with these ideological labels.

Economic Activism and  Social Activism
Dr. Boyce Watkins made an interesting commentary on August 20, 2019 about ultra left socialists who he describes as idealists. To paraphrase, he said that they tend to be so blinded by their ideology that they harbor very little understanding of the value and power of money in helping their own struggles. I’m in agreement. I would like to point out that economic activism is just as legitimate as social activism, who is to say one has more legitimacy than the other? Below is the video of Dr Watkins' commentary:


Capitalism and Socialism
Further, I read one critique titled, Jay-Z has crossed the picket line with his NFL deal, where the writer tore into Jay-Z’s move and concluded that corporations and billionaires will not help the poor and the oppressed, but rather the solution is socialism. My question was what kind of socialism are they referring to? For example, Bernie Sanders, whose policy proposals I support for the most part, refers to himself as a democratic socialist, but I’ve never heard him claim himself to be anti-capitalist, for one because he recognizes fully well that profits are needed to fund social agendas. (Speaking of which, the converse is also true, what does it mean to be capitalist, because this too is not a single-version concept or system?)  In fact, I have read literature from some socialist groups denouncing Sanders and his proposals as not in fact being socialist enough, so what are we really talking about here when the article ends with saying socialism is the answer? This is a point that needs unpacking, because in my view the answer is not one or the other, each has some merit. 


All About The Money
I’ve read others articles like, Jay-Z Isn’t a Sellout, He’s a Capitalist, as well as heard commentary that Jay-Z is all about himself, as if he is the only party that includes self-interest as an element of their agenda. Yes, any deal made must be perceived to be mutually beneficial to all parties.  Have we forgotten that Kaepernick settled with the NFL - for money, presumably on an amount that was satisfactory to him? Have we also forgotten that if Kaepernick were to be given a job it would be for money? So I think we should be very careful not to paint ourselves into a corner. Kaepernick is as much about the money as is Jay-Z and it’s the reason his tongue is tied. So many have called for him to speak and to offer leadership beyond tweets, but, unfortunately for him, he is missing in action. From all indications if he were offered a job playing he would have taken it, and then what about 'the cause'? Nothing. We would still need to be activists the following day because the fundamental factors that give rise to the injustice being protested would still have not changed. Are any of the NFL players playing for free? Including Eric Reid and others who don the cause of social justice in a seemingly ultra righteous fashion?  Let’s be real, money is at the center of it all. And, by the tone of some of the commentary on this matter, the money itself and the ownership it can buy you is a bad thing, so the virtue remains in being a worker indefinitely. This is problematic because it does not allow for any other view or approach, and that is flawed.

It is naive to not recognize the value and power of money in a capitalist society. In case we forgot, it was Marcus Garvey who pointed out very early in the 20th century to black folks that, “wealth is strength, wealth is power, wealth is influence, wealth is justice, is liberty, is real human rights. The system of our world politics suggests such, and as a fact it is.” Nearly a hundred years later today we still see this manifest as reality. The challenge today in my view is those who may be conscious, but who are not Jay-Z have not quite figured out how to use money to their advantage, beyond the flashy displays. Jay-Z is going places and making moves very few black men have gone and can go while learning as he goes along, and that makes many black folks uncomfortable because it is not something we're used to seeing. It’s his hustle and it is just as good as anyone else’s, and we might want to muster up the courage to support him as he goes into uncharted territory. It not an either or, both Kaepernick and Jay-Z would like similar outcomes, so why are we offering those who have no interest in fairness and justice fodder by pitting them one against the other? Both strategies have merit. We can offer to support them equally.

Challenge Our Thinking: Ownership and Employment
A few days ago I came across the article, Colin Kaepernick Posts New Workout Video to Prove NFL Readiness Amid Jay-Z’s Partnership with the Organization. I found it disappointing because it conflicted with a point that is at the core of my beliefs - business and enterprise are a critical source of empowerment (NB. not the critical source of empowerment). 

I thought the article was a travesty and felt that Colin Kaepernick should stop hurting his legacy by his incessant begging for work even at this stage.  I feel he is now at a point where he can use his network to create workout videos, for example, and release them now that he has the ability to parlay his persona into so many things that can earn him way more than he will make in the NFL over time. So I felt then that he was missing Jay-Z’s point.  In my view he should now be thinking how he and his friends can own NFL teams so that they can truly prevent future blackballing of other players. In one report Jay-Z is quoted when asked about Kaepernick's involvement as saying, “I’m not his boss. I can’t just bring him into something. That’s for him to say.” Which suggests to me the door is open for Colin.  So in my view they should both be talking at this point. 

Kaepernick seems to be playing checkers while Jay-Z is playing chess in my view, which means that one has a longer term goal in mind, which may not be immediately apparent to the onlooker. However, I don't wish to unfairly blame Kaepernick since as individuals we ultimately have to play where we're comfortable. Jay’s move is a call for us to challenge our thinking. Has any of those who are voicing disagreement about this given thought to the fact that Kaepernick’s kneeling opened the door and has given rise to a movement that could result with more black folks moving to own more of the NFL teams?  It could. It’s the what’s next, because protest is not an end in itself, but rather a means to an end. Hopefully, those highly paid sports stars and celebrities come to recognize that there are more uses for their money than showing off. Jay-Z has been on this message for years, and he evidently not only makes music about it, but he also does it.  What a concept, take action, act in spite of fear even as you venture into the unknown.

Instead of it being about a job, it has to become about owning the jobs that employ your people; become a decision-maker within the NFL. I wonder how many of the disenfranchised and oppressed can visualize a day when people who look like the players own more than half of the teams in the league with some of their companies also supplying the support services. It is helpful to remember that integration should work both ways, we first integrated as subordinates to white ownership, now it is high time to integrate as equal owners and decision makers. We’ve got a lot of learning to do among ourselves and we can see that the road won't be easy.

Find the Points of Unity and Celebrate Our Wins
Increasingly, black celebrities and investors are by now seized upon the importance of ownership in sports and other arena, and some recognize that each small step is a move that can in some small way help the overall African American community. So, if Jay-Z is successful at opening the door for other black owners to follow, would we not celebrate that victory? My hope is that as a community we would support him for making that breakthrough even while we work for breakthroughs at the level at which we operate.


Steve Biko once said, “the most potent weapon is the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed,” and we should be more careful we are not sowing the seeds of our own destruction by fueling unwarranted divisions. 



Bookmark and Share