Onyinye Ubah

I lost. I didn’t win. I made it to the first 50. Somehow, I couldn’t make it to the first 20. This was my experience in Etisalat Easy Business competition in 2014. Before then, I was doing comic writing. Losing out in that competition took me back to the drawing board and look inwardly. Right now, I wouldn’t call it a loss. Rather, it was a kind of redirection. Somehow, everything was pointing at doing animation for brands. It made sense. In no distant time, Scroll Entertainment was born. It was far from being easy.

Upon my graduation from the University of Benin, I didn’t see myself running around to look for a job. I was keener at looking for ways to create jobs. Though I studied Electrical and Electronic Engineering, I was not interested in practicing neither was I ready for the corporate world. It was the days of boom in the employment of graduates in the banking sector. Yet, my heart was with the arts. There was no hesitation at all before delving into it. It had always occurred to me that my talent needed consistency for my dream to actualize. Luckily, my family respected my decision to pursue arts in as much as they were not fully in support of it. Back then, they didn’t see the big picture. Their major concern was if I was quite sure of the road I was taking.

Unexpectedly, I ran into one of my friends, Nkem who worked in Diamond Bank one day. Through him, I did some animation for Diamond bank. At that point, my hope was rekindled. I could practically see myself growing. Not overnight. Not in an instant or snapping of fingers. The growth did not come without its own hassles. I remember training people and they bailed out on me. I was demoralized. Instead, I did give up. I took my time to read up on the industry. I don’t think there are many books that specifically talks about running an animation business but I was able to piece together different knowledge from different books.

After then, my perspective about running the business changed. Instead, I now see opportunities instead of challenges. Nigeria is full of skilled people but the limited resources to harness these skills are where the problem lies. A skill like animation is still new and so far it is undervalued. You can imagine someone looking down at you for being an animator or considers you unserious because you draw cartoon for children. At the moment, a lot of people have placed a lot of values on creatives. You are almost left to hustle alone with little or no support from the government to put your name out there.

In putting your name on the map, I have learnt the importance of promoting your culture. The African culture. A lot of times, most animation are not African based. A lot of African children grew up thinking they were not qualified to be African princesses because the princesses they saw didn’t look like them. For African animators, this has been a low hanging fruit on one hand. Making characters where women tie gele and make braids has been quite commendable. Then, penetrating the global market, on the other hand, with our kind of animation has been quite difficult.

Looking back at my journey and the year 2020 as a pandemic year, there has always been a blessing amidst all odds. During the lockdown, I started working with some studios in the U.S on character development and support. I have been able to do a concept 2D short film based on Black Panther and lots more.

In the coming years, I see myself as a key person in African stories and impacting the world with African stories too. The likes of star wars should be produced in the African continent. We are due for such phenomenal moves, I am sure.

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