After years of publishing Malika: Warrior Queen as a graphic novel with its central character inspired by Queen Amina, a 16th century queen who ruled in parts of Nigeria’s northwest, Roye Okupe, founder of YouNeek Studios, a comics publisher, has stepped things up with an animated 15-minute short film which he expects to be the precursor to a full length feature.
The decision to base the story on a character steeped in legend was deliberate for Okupe. “I really wanted to do something deeply rooted in African history, culture and mythology,” he says. “These are things they don’t teach us in schools in Nigeria because we learn more about foreign history than our own. I didn’t know about Queen Amina growing up.”
Bringing the graphic novel to life through film was not without challenges, especially given lean resources: Okupe bootstrapped production costs, partly aided by a $20,000 raise from Kickstarter. A production team of 30 people also worked painstakingly to capture authentic details from costume to architectural design. “We thought it was going to be done in six months, it ended up taking a year,” Okupe says.
Okupe plans to spend the coming months showcasing Malika: Warrior Queen at festivals and pitching to major studios in a bid to take African mythology stories global. “There’s no reason why our children shouldn’t be able to turn on their TVs and see characters like this rooted in Africa,” he says.