South Africa's First Woman-Led Animation Studio Gears Up For First Release
Photo Credit: Instagram / @neobaepi

South Africa's First Woman-Led Animation Studio Gears Up For First Release

Black women are continuing to create solutions to problems that have nearly been ingrained into society.

One of the latest to do so is Thandiwe MIauli, founder and CEO of Studio Yezi, a South African development and animation studio on a mission to challenge Hollywood’s models of animation. 

According to their website, the name is inspired by the isiZulu word “inkanyezi” which means “Star.” Thus the company aims to be a “symbol of hope and light [and] serve the world with our storytelling.”

She tells IOL News she feels the current landscape of the South African animation world does not accurately represent its audience. As a teenager, she fell in love with Japanese animation and “wanted something to connect her to [the characters].”

“Black people have been fans of fantasy, superhero, comic-book inspired stories,” she said. “And yet writers seem to forget us when they create.”

MIauli decided to create a whimsical fantasy adventure animation titled “SOLA” starring a brown-skinned, afro rocking, “sassy 14-year-old” who goes on a dangerous magical journey. While it is South Africa’s first independently produced afro-animation led by a woman, according to IOL, she says the riveting inspirational tale will be a production that audiences will be able to connect to.

“We have wild, funny, sassy characters who really go through a lot to master the magic that lives within them,” she said. “This is new, fresh and exciting, and I pray it awakens the same feelings in our audience.”

With this project, MIauli says she hopes to “help nurture and develop fresh local talent,” reports IOL News

The character — Sola — is played by Karabo Ntshweng, a radio host in South Africa, along with other characters such as podcaster, Mixo Mathebula, and musician, Rifumo Mdaka. 

In order to fulfill her dream to “#MakeSOLAHappen,” MIauli started a crowdfunding campaign to finish the animation. She says she chose this route rather than pitching to a bigger Hollywood company so that she can stay in control of the production. 

“For Hollywood to let you be a showrunner, you have to have money or experience. I had neither,” she said. “What I did and do have, is talent, discipline and heart for this story.”

To learn more about “SOLA” and where to donate, visit their website

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