Thoughts on Ghanaian Animation

Ato Bibinii animated series by Poka
Ato Bibinii animated series by Poka

Poka has high hopes for the animation industry in Ghana and by extension, Africa. 

“It’s gradually picking up. People are gradually waking up to the potential of animation to tell stories.” 

On Ghanaian television and in corporate environments like banks, for example, animation is gaining ground as an innovative and more expressive way to sell ideas to audiences. 

In Ghana, other than a few projects such as 28th Day by Parables Animation, Global Warning by LOL Gh and Azumah by Indigene B.R.O.S., there is a dearth of narrative-led animation. The term narrative-led is used here loosely to describe serial, feature-length and short animated films. These tend to be relatively more fleshed-out stories and not intended to be funny skits, advertising campaigns or music videos.

A Valentine Story screened at Accra Animation Film Festival, Encounters Film Festival and Kaboom Animation Festival

Poka explains that the need to make money is the driving factor. Animation talent in Ghana thrives in the advertising industry where there’s more of a ready market and money to be made. Outside of that, narrative animation is mostly a marketing technique to attract paying clients. 

“I think the economy is also part of it. People want to make money. Take me for instance. Many of the stuff I’m doing now is to make money for other projects. There are personal projects I want to do but because of where we are, I have to find ways to cough up some money. Even visualizers I thought I would just do it for a bit.”

Poka believes this will change, however, as audiences begin to appreciate local animation even more. The long-held view that animation is for children is slowly but surely fading. 

Animation is for everyone and there’s a kid in everyone.

Poka Asamoah

Poka believes that so long as people exist, animation will always be an effective communication tool. With this change comes a rare opportunity for creators to choose animation as a career path and make a good living. 

“People are realizing how lucrative animation is now and I’m glad it’s like that. The whole idea behind this is to bring parents’ attention to it. So when their kids say they’re going to do arts in school, they won’t stop them from doing it. I should be an example for young artists.”

Poka is also optimistic that, as more success stories come from the animation and arts industry, parents will be more open to letting their kids choose that career path and support them all the way, just like his father did. He confesses that he’s never doubted his career choices and it’s partly thanks to the support his father, who is also an artist gave him. 

What Ghanaian Animation Needs to Grow

Poka utters just one word, “teamwork.”

Indeed, Ghanaian animation studios seem to operate in silos, each studio in its corner pushing out work. Despite the formation of organisations like the Animators Association of Ghana and festivals like the Accra Animation Film Festival, there are very few collaborations in the animation industry. 

“It’s harder to collaborate here. Everyone wants to have the name for themselves. And then projects collapse. I feel if 2 -3 animators get together, we can do great things. Everyone wants to go to Annecy so everyone is doing their own thing.” 

Poka Arts

What the Future Holds for Poka

For a creative who easily gets bored and chases the next creative thrill, it’s no surprise that Poka doesn’t bother too much about the future. He’s simply optimistic about it. Save for his desire to devote more time to his own animated series, Ato Bibini, Poka is simply going with the flow. 

“I know it’s positive. I know it’s going to get better. The thing is that I pray a lot and God handles things. I dunno what’s gonna happen tomorrow, only God knows. I’m being very optimistic. So hopefully in the next 5 years, you should see something like Disney in Africa.” 

Disney in recent years has focused primarily on 3D animation techniques. For a man gunning to build the Disney of Africa and easily gets bored doing one thing, we were a little disappointed to hear how Poka felt about 3D animation. He is not a fan of making it.

“I think it’s too intricate, it needs a lot of calculations and I hate math. I find it to be less artistic and more algorithmic. Maybe in time, I’ll just do live-action movies too. Just, not 3D.”

Inspiration, Favorite Animators, Films and Recommendations

Poka says he’s heavily inspired by Disney. He loves to watch Disney animations and learn from them. Beyond Disney however, Poka draws inspiration from 3 creators, Shaz Enrico, Wesley Louis from the Line Animation (The Mighty Grand Piton) and MTJJ whose real name is Zhang Ping (Legend of Hei/Luo Xiaohei). 

Asked about other animators on the continent he’s impressed with, he mentions Eri Umusu from Anthill Studios (Sim, Malika: Warrior Queen), Moshood Shades Ridwan (Garbage Boy and Trashcan, In My Hood) and Bertil Toby Svanekiaer from Indigene B.R.O.S. and OOTO Studios (Chaskele). About Bertil he says, “Toby is the go-to guy for 3D animation.”

For his favourite animation, Poka lists Avatar: The Last Airbender, One Punch Man, Legend of Hei and Tuah Malay (Hang Tuah: The Legend Begins). For his favourite Ghanaian animation, Poka fondly mentions Akwaada Wo Ko He, an animated ad by Hugh Sydney Quist of Zingaro Productions. Akwaada Wo Ko He advocated against drug abuse and is one of the earliest examples of animation in Ghana in recent memory.

“That animation by Zingaro sparked something in a lot of people.”

View some of his art in our Bahari Blue feature on Poka. Also, check out our playlist of works by Poka below. See more of what Poka has to offer on his Instagram, YouTube and Facebook pages. 

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