Opposition Leader Felix Tshisekedi Has Won the DRC Elections

After delayed results and international pressure, the election results have finally been announced.

Celebrations abound in the Democratic Republic of Congo as the country finally bids farewell to Joseph Kabila's 17-year rule, and welcomes opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDSP) political party. The election results were the subject of what were thought to be delay tactics, and were finally released in the early hours of the morning following mounting international pressure.

News of the opposition's win comes as a tremendous victory after the UDSP attempted for decades, without success, to come into power. According to News24, Tshisekedi received over 7 million votes, approximately 38% of the vote.

Speaking on his win, Tshisekedi said:

"I pay tribute to President Kabila and today we should no longer see him as an adversary, but rather, a partner in democratic change in our country."

The road to these elections, however, has been marred with violence and the loss of many lives. Almost 70% of the voting machines in the capital city Kinshasa were destroyed in a fire just 10 days before the elections were to be held. It was also feared that Kabila would ensure that his personal favorite Emmanuel Ramazani Shadarywould succeed him.

Shortly after the voting occurred, the Internet was shut down by the government in what they believed would thwart any attempts to prematurely spread the unofficial results of the election. Following the delay in the announcing of the results, security was tightened due to concerns of the outbreak of violence.

This is the DRC's first peaceful democratic transition of power since its independence in 1960.

Screengrab from Disney+.

From Capetown to a Galaxy Far, Far Away: A South African Animation Studio Reimagines Star Wars

What started as a joint venture in 2015 has become a full-fledged working relationship, as Triggerfish Animation Studios cements its status as one of Disney’s most exciting collaborators.

In 2015, Disney, wanting to discover fresh voices in animation across Africa, stepped into a joint venture with Triggerfish Animation Studios to create Story Lab. It allowed the Cape Town-based company to gather aspiring writers, provide mentorship and logistical expertise to them, and help workshop ideas, all alongside Disney's creative teams. One of the standout projects that emerged from that original Story Lab was the preschool show Kiya and the Kimoja Heroes, which launched on Disney Junior, in collaboration with eOne, earlier this year. And there are more to come.

With their roots in South Africa, Triggerfish draws talent from the local creative pool while collaborating with artists, animators, and producers from various African countries. Its aim has always been to revolutionize the animation landscape by nurturing the next generation of talent. Founded in 1996 by Jacquie Trowell, and Emma Kaye, the studio was sold to Stuart Forrest and James Middleton in 2004. Forrest, a former colleague of the founders, has served as the studio’s CEO since then.

In 2016, The Highway Rat and Revolting Rhymes, two projects created with Magic Light and BBC One, established Triggerfish's reputation for delivering high-quality CG animation with a distinctive stop-motion aesthetic. This laid the groundwork for a future collaboration with Lucasfilm (whom Disney acquired in 2012) in the Star Wars universe with the short film Aau's Song, which recently premiered on Disney+. The blossoming relationship between Disney and Triggerfish also paved the way for Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire, an African science fiction anthology featuring a diverse team of creators and African stories, set to premiere in July on Disney+.

Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire - Teaser

"We owe an enormous amount to Disney for collaborating with us on Aau's Song, Kiya & the Kimoja Heroes, and Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire," Triggerfish CEO Stuart Forrest told OkayAfrica. He emphasized the invaluable lessons gleaned from the experience, particularly Disney's emphasis on attention to detail, strong character development, and compelling storytelling.

While CG animation is at the core of Triggerfish's expertise, its creative endeavors extend beyond digital animation. They began with stop-motion animation, notably working on the African adaptation of Sesame Street called Takalani Sesame. As they evolved, they transitioned to CG animation for its cost-effectiveness and because of an abundance of CG animators.

Developing ‘Aau’s Song’

Triggerfish’s spirit of collaboration also brought co-writers and co-directors Daniel Clarke and Nadia Darries together to pitch the animated short film Aau’s Song to Lucasfilm when Star Wars came calling. The renowned production company, founded by filmmaker George Lucas and acquired by Disney in 2012, reached out to Triggerfish to work on a brief for the second season of Star Wars: Visions. Triggerfish turned to its network of creative talent. Aiming to pair more experienced creatives with newer talent, it asked Clarke which of the shortlisted projects he’d like to bring to life, and he immediately chose Darries’ pitch. “All of them were great,” Clarke says, “but Nadia’s really spoke to me.”

After revising the pitch further, Aau’s Song was chosen by Lucasfilm to be showcased as the penultimate story in Star Wars: Visions 2, and premiered on Disney+ on May 5, 2023. Every episode of the second season of the acclaimed series features a different country and a different animation team, with Triggerfish being the only African company participating.

Using a mixture of stop-motion animation style of 3D animation, viewers are pulled into Korba, a planet once rich in “Force-attuned” kyber crystals used to create Jedi lightsabers. An ancient order of the Sith poisons it, leaving the kyber corrupted. Aau's father, Abat, is a master miner who helps locate and restore the corrupted kyber with the aid of a Jedi named Kratu – one crystal at a time. Aau, a force-sensitive young girl with an elemental connection to Korba’s land, can communicate with the crystals through song.

An image still from 'Aua's Song' of one character leaning down to touch another on its shoulder.Daniel Clarke and Nadia Darries at Star Wars Celebration 2023.Photo courtesy Disney+.

If Aau's Song's character designs feel like animated plush toys wrapped in Basotho blankets, that’s on purpose. The initial concept for Aau was actually a mix of both African and Japanese designs. “The bold color blocking and wrapped blankets of the characters were [inspired by] South African Ndebele dolls,” says Clarke. “We were also inspired by the stuffed bears from the Japanese stop-motion series Rilakkuma and Kaoru,” he adds.

Aau’s Song’s simple plot is just as layered and influenced by the region. “There are two parts to the inspiration for Aau’s Song,” Darries says. “First, there’s the singing aspect, and then there’s a connection to the land.”

Darries, who, in addition to writing and directing, is also a singer/songwriter, wanted Aau to connect to the kyber crystals on a spiritual level through music. “South Africa is so multicultural, but what a lot of us have in common is singing and chanting to connect to each other, to the spirit and the land,” Darries says. "Even when we protest, we sing and dance.”

“The idea of poisoned kyber [crystals] came quite late in the story process,” Clarke says. “But that's how we connect to the [larger] Star Wars universe. We wanted to explore a land that has somehow been tortured, and is calling out for healing.” The depleted gold mines of South Africa came to mind when Clarke mentioned this particular point. “We wanted [to capture] the notion that young people can connect to [the land] with their voices in some way and heal it,” he says.

Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 | Official Trailer |

Speaking of voices, one of the perks of working with a company as large as Disney is access to stellar voice talent, and Aau’s Song is no different. Little Aau’s speaking voice is by Mpilo Jantjie, and her singing voice is by Dineo du Toit. In addition, Aau's father, Abat, is played by Tumisho Masha, and the Tony-winning Cynthia Erivo voices the mysterious Jedi Master Kratu.

Although all of the characters are personal to the creative team, Kratu is one of their favorites, “The Jedi in the film is inspired by my cousin— an ngoma or shaman,” Darries says. “We wanted [her to have] this sort of soft, unassuming power,” Clarke adds. “But in the end, we show how strong she is.”

Often in animation, the final product appears deceptively simple. However, the process of creating an animated short of this caliber is anything but. The detailed process requires every frame, sound, and light source to be built within a computer. “I kid you not, we probably had six hours of meetings just about grass,” Clarke says.

So much more to come

In 2020, Triggerfish launched a second studio in Galway, Ireland, drawing talent from the local creative pool of both the European and South Africa locations.“We’ve been really lucky to have extended our African base of creative talent, working with animators, artists, and producers from Egypt, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria, over the past few years,” Forrest says. “They have added fresh direction and a wonderful sense of inspiration to our work.”

That inspiration continues to expand, with the company publishing graphic novels, too. Clarke conceived and illustrated the title, Kariba, a fantasy comic that draws inspiration from the folklore of the Zambezi River and the construction of the Kariba Dam.

And Triggerfish isn’t slowing down anytime soon — the 10-part anthology Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire will be out this month on Disney+. The company also has a new series premiering on Netflix, which sponsored a second Story Lab with Triggerfish in 2021. Called Supa Team 4, it’s the first African animated series for the streaming network. Triggerfish has more projects in the works with major Hollywood studios that the company has to be tight-lipped about, for now.


Black Sherif, Africa’s Young Bright Black Star

We trail the Ghanaian superstar as he plays his first sold-out show in New York City.

“I leave my art to breathe. I don't apply no pressure,” Black Sherif shares one of his many philosophical principles with me in the OkayAfrica offices. The 21-year-old Ghanaian newcomer has only been professionally releasing music since 2019 but he has already become the youngest singer to win Artist of the Year at the 2023 Vodafone Ghana Music Awards.

He reacts to the news with a boyishly shy grin: “It’s mad.”

Last October, his breakthrough album The Villian I Never Was cemented him as a rising talent to watch. The sonic palette of his debut showcased an eclectic fusion of drill, Afrobeats, reggae, and hip-hop. Critical acclaim abounded, as well as collaborations with the likes of Popcaan and Burna Boy.

For as long as the West has smeared Africa with allegations of archaic laws and culture, Black Sherif has become the young bright Black star of what has been derogatorily referred to as the “dark continent.”

Uniting the Diaspora

Three nights earlier I had the opportunity to witness his electrifying stage presence firsthand. Palladium Times Square, New York City — stop number one of Black Sherif’s headlining tour and a long way from Konongo. Usually, concerts will open with a lesser-known artist from the same label, this one had about 20 acts.

From Nigeria and Ghana to Liberia and New York City, the diaspora united on and off stage. No one quite knew when the main act would arrive but the audience was too pleasantly tipsy to notice how much time had passed. At one point it seemed like the hosts were plucking attendees from the audience to perform — a real communal affair. Still, the crowd became restless waiting for Blacko, whose name they cheered in between pulls of smuggled cigarettes and blunts. When he burst on stage with a raucous performance of “Kwaku the Traveller,” the security guards were too enraptured to catch those health code violations.

Even without the pyrotechnics, Black Sherif commanded the stage with the combined energy of the 20 preceding artists.

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Image - YouTube Video Screenshot

Tiwa Savage Gets Jiggy In the Video for New Single "Pick Up"

Tiwa Savage is here to remind you, "Don't let no one play games with your heart."

Nigerian singer-songwriter Tiwa Savageis setting her fans up for one heck of a summer. Hot off of the release of her rousing single "Stamina," featuring fellow Nigerian talents Young Jonn and Ayra Starr, the Queen of Afrobeats has given us the tools needed to deal with a potential lover with terrible phone etiquette. Savage released the funky video for her latest single "Pick Up" and her line, "Not gone let the devil kolobi my happiness" had us sold from the get-go. The singer has released a number of singles this year, as fans pray that it means a full project is on the cards for us. The idea of someone not picking up Tiwa Savage's call is mindblowing, but, experiences make for great music so we assume something must have inspired the latest track.

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