By Ogova Ondego
Published February 20, 2017
A Lagos (Nigeria)-based initiative is set on building what it refers to as the largest database of African comics, cartoons, video games and movies. Nelson Ziki, one of the three founders of the startup business known as Kugali, speaks to ArtMatters.Info’s Ogova Ondego about the project.
Please introduce your start-up
Kugali.com is an online database that shall house the most awe-inspiring titles across comics, cartoons, gaming and animation from Africa and its Diaspora. Founded by three Nigerian men, we also have a blog, a YouTube channel and a podcast where we talk about our work, and sometimes interview the creators of our favourite titles.
Who are the three founders of Kugali?
Nelson Ziki, Tolu Olowofoyeku and Macaulay ‘Demi’ Alvarez.
When was Kugali founded?
Although we had had this idea for nearly two year, Kugali is only a year old as it came into existence on January 15, 2016.
Why was Kugali founded?
The story of Kugali goes back nearly 15 years ago. We all attended secondary school together; it was our love for comics, video games and movies that brought us together. However, as we grew older, we started to realise that Africans weren’t represented in these stories.
We set out to find out if there was anything like an African video game or comic book. To our surprise, we discovered several talented creators across the continent and the Diaspora. The discovery process was very difficult; we literally had to scour the internet searching through forums, Facebook groups and news articles.
The challenge is that there is fantastic African content but how does one go about discovering it? Kugali is our attempt to address this challenge. Our goal is to build the largest database of African media across film/TV, comics and gaming. The goal is to not only promote African media but to also make the discovery process simpler and more direct.
What are you currently working on?
My team and I have been working on a project known as the Kugali Comic Club. This is a subscription service that gives members access to hand-picked African comics every week.
Who is in your team?
Kugali being a distribution platform, we partner with African creators to help showcase their projects online. These contributors are some of the most talented creators across the African continent.They include Avandu (urbandesignkings.com); Tino Makoni (comexposed.com); and Bill Masuku (founder of Enigma Comix), among others.
Last year  we also launched a database for African cartoons, video games and comics. Our first exclusive project is called Newborn Saga, created by Peda Studio in Lagos, Nigeria.
New Born Saga . . .
Yes, Neborn Saga is an epic fantasy graphic novel inspired by myths, legends, and historical events from across Africa. The story follows a group of heroes that must band together to undo a deadly curse that threatens to wipe out humanity. The novel will be released by the end of March 2017.
Please describe the setting of the novel.
The New Born Saga series is set in ancient Africa. Long ago a great ancient Evil set out to destroy Creation. The Celestial Council came together and created a solution to this uprising. They created the New Born spirits. Pure in heart and noble in the cause of regaining balance in the realms of existence, they vanquished the Evil threat and banished it to eternal darkness. millenniums have passed and a curse, Eons, is set in motion to unleash terror once more.
Interesting . . .
Besides the Kugali platform, we are also working on a comic book club, a subscription service that provides members with a monthly bundle of 4-5 comics.
How does Kugali, that is based in Nigeria, work with artists based across Africa?
The internet is a wonderful thing! Facebook, Instagram, and Google have allowed us to connect with artists across Africa and the Diaspora.
What do you consider to be the achievements of Kugali so far?
We still have a long way to go but the Kugali Podcast has been quite successful. It’s a weekly show where we discuss the latest and greatest video games, comics, films and TV shows across Africa and the Diaspora. We’ve had the opportunity to interview some really amazing artist and creators. The list includes: Roye Okupe (EXO: The Legend of Wale Williams and Malika the Warrior Queen); Salim Busuru (the founder of Avandu, formerly Urban Design Kings) and Gareth Crocker (the director of Jongo, the first sci-fi series set in Africa).
Towards the end of 2016 we also launched our website and the reception has been very good. Our website now features largest digital collection of African comics and video games and before the end of this year we also hope to build the largest collection of films and TV shows.
Occasionally, we receive emails and comments from artist and fans thanking us for the work we’re doing. Just knowing that we’re adding value to these people’s lives is what keeps us going.
What challenges does Kugali contend with?
Limited resources and manpower quickly come to mind. However, this is also an advantage as it helps us focus better.
Kugali is also primarily a tech product and the dissemination of internet across Africa is still limping somewhat. Most of our users are actually members of the African diaspora based in Europe and North America. The good news is that high speed internet is becoming common across Africa and this wil assist us in building our base of African fans.
Finally, it’s also important to consider that Africa is a large and diverse place and too often people just lump us all together, especially in the west. Therefore, we want to try as much as possible to ensure that the diversity of our content reflects the diversity of Africa.
What does the future hold for Kugali?
Very soon we will be opening the door to artists across Africa and the Diaspora to share their creativity with our community.
Finally we kick-started a new project called The African History Collective, a multimedia platform designed to help people explore African history in an easy and accessible manner. Our first series will be centred on Mansa Musa of ancient Mali; expect to see comics, podcasts and short animations.