Toad Visits his In-Laws 1991
Jean-Michel Kibushi / DRC 1991 / 10m
Rooted in an oral tale, this story explains how it came to be that some animals don’t get along.
Africa in Motion Film Festival | Woodland Creatures, Edinburgh | 2 Nov 2017
Africa in Motion Film Festival | Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh | 4 Nov 2017
Afrika Eye Festival | Aardman Studios, Bristol | 26 Oct 2017
Afrika Eye Festival | Big Screen Bristol | Oct 2017
Clips from classic African animations
One of the most productive and innovative contemporary animators is Jean Michel Kibushi Ndajte Wooto. He was born in 1957 in Lubefu and grew up in Tshumbe in what was then Zaire (today the DRC). From 1985 to 1989, Kibushi studied drama and cinematography at Kinshasa’s National Institute of the Arts. In 1988 he attended a course on animation held in Kinshasa at the Wallonie-Bruxelles Centre, run by the Belgian company Atelier Graphoui. He was so inspired by this course that he created the first local mobile studio for animation, Studio Malembe Maa, meaning ‘slowly but surely’ in Lingala. In addition to producing his own work through this studio, Kibushi has also used it to organize workshops for schools, teaching students how to draw rudimentary sequential images, which are then placed in a zoetrope to conjure movement – the principle of animation. His motivation was to use the mobile studio to encourage the emergence of animation film-making in the DRC, which he conceives of not as something ‘new’, but as being a natural progression of older cultural forms:
Personally, I wanted to tell the stories of my people to my people. From the very beginning I conceived my work as a means to conserve oral storytelling, secular and popular, and making it known to the youngsters who frequently are displaced from their own culture.
In 1990, Atelier Graphoui invited Kibushi to participate in a training programme in Brussels. On his return to the DRC he began work on his next film. As early as 1991, in co-production with Atelier Graphoui, he completed the first Congolese animated film, Le Crapaud Chez ses Beaux-Parents/Toad Visits his In-Laws (an adaptation of a Tetela story), and he went on to make three more films with Atelier Graphoui. Between 1999 and 2004, Kibushi’s techniques in animation became more refined and diverse, resulting in his stop-motion film, Prince Loseno (2004), which makes use of professional trade tools such as maquettes (dolls) with armature, highly detailed environments and post-production effects. His work and interests also expanded, at this time, to include a concern with preserving the animated films that were made by Belgian film directors for the Congolese public during the colonial period in the DRC.
Kibushi is now helping to develop animation in the DRC by collaborating with artists from the Fine Art College in Kinshasa and by disseminating knowledge about the craft and techniques involved in animation through workshops at the College and through his own studio. This year he starts his PhD in African animation at the University of Leuven in Belgium.