N. F. Kenure
I'm always on the look out for African animation that my kids can watch and what's out there would make slim pickings a buffet. When I watched A Kalabanda ate my homework, I got really excited to talk to Raymond Malinga its director, and even more so when my son asked to see more episodes. He speaks to me about his animation short film that was screened at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.
Q: My first question of course is, how did you get into animation?
Raymond: I always wanted to tell stories, I started out by wanting to write novels because I love fantasy. I'm a big J.K. Rawlings fan. I also really loved Roald Dahl who wrote books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda. It felt like no one ever told writers like that they weren’t allowed to do anything. For me, imagination is such a strong and impressionable thing and I always admired how free the world could be if we let things be a little bit more whimsical. I believe that the most powerful thing we can do as humans is imagine.
I got a degree in animation in Malaysia and worked for sometime at WAU, an animation studio in Malaysia as a concept developer, screen writer and animator.
Q: What has been the highpoint of your career so far?
Raymond: It would definitely be screening “A Kalabanda ate my Homework” at the Cannes film festival in the short film corner. It was an amazing experience and a wonderful opportunity.
Q: Do you look for imperfections in your work and how open are you to criticism?
Raymond: First of all, I think it is important not to get defensive. It’s also very easy to say this. The thing with criticism is that it depends on who is giving it. I also like to get feedback for each new character while in development. If twenty people feel a certain way about a character, there must be something to it.
As regards imperfections, everytime I watch “A Kalabanda ate my homework”, there are certain parts of it that I feel I could change but..
Q: What exactly is a Kalabanda, is it a dog?
Raymond: We get that a lot, but a Kalabanda is a Ugandan boogeyman that supposedly haunts schools in many stories. We wanted a concept that everone would understand, but making it a Kalabanda ensured an African ring to it. The Kalabanda is also a mythical creature so that takes the story to a whole other level.
Q: Oh, I understand, like the Nigerian “bush baby”. So, I take it you wanted to make your story uniquely Ugandan. How intentional are you about creating African stories?
Raymond: Very. We had to give a lot of considerations to making our stories in our local language but there are over forty languages in Uganda. So, which would we go with? It would also exclude pretty much all other Africans. So, we had to find a way to make our story undoubtedly African and still accessible to the rest of the world.
Q: I think you did a good job and I'm glad that you thought to open up your work to many others.
Raymond: I feel a responsibility that we as creators are ambassadors for the kids. I want to create content that they can look up to, that also inspires kids to say, “we can do that too”.
Q: Would you be interested in reaching out across Africa? DSTV is a platform that bridges the divide in Africa, have you tried to get your product to them?
Raymond: We were able to get in touch with DSTV, and after the considerations given to us, I had to pause. For me, this is a marathon not a sprint. What they asked of us, felt a little too fast, and I thought that we were not quite ready and there would be a burnout. It was as simple as picking our battles. We will get back to DSTV at the right time.
Q: How involved are you with the process? Do you write the script or are you strictly an animator?
Raymond: Like I said, I began with trying to write novels so I am involved to a degree with the scripts but my Brother Robin is the scriptwriter.
Q: What are you doing to get your work noticed?
Raymond: We’ve been to some film festivals like Cannes and the New York film Festival. Interviews like this are great. We also go to a lot of schools even in Nigeria where we give out free books with the artwork and production process.
Q: My son watched “A Kalabanda ate my Homework” and wanted more. When do we get more from you? What else are you working on?
Raymond: We are are working on a rather ambitious project right now. Can’t give out a lot of information but it's an animated TV show that I am quite excited about.
Q: Perfect. I hope that one day, your work will be a staple globally, and especially in African homes. Goodluck.
Oct 10, 2018