SA animator inspired by grandfather's tales of Kariba

2016-04-14 11:02

Harare - A South African animator has used his grandfather's spellbinding stories of building Zimbabwe's Kariba Dam as the inspiration for a graphic-novel-in-the-making.

The imposing grey 567-metre-long dam wall on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe is a key image in Kariba, a comic book-and-film project dreamt up by the Cape Town-based Blue Forest Collective.

Director Daniel Clarke's grandfather worked on the massive dam wall's construction in the late 1950s. His unforgettable stories of Nyaminyami, the spirit god of the Zambezi River who was separated from his wife when the wall was built, gave Clarke the inspiration for the novel, which has just been crowdfunded through Kickstarter. 

Now Clarke and his team plan to finish their book within the year - and then turn it into a film.

"Daniel did the first drawing for Kariba back in 2013," animator Jac Hamman told News24.

"He has been working on it in his own time since then and the rest of us have joined him," he added. 

Kariba Dam, or Lake Kariba as it is often referred to, was created by damming the Zambezi floodplain. Tens of thousands of the local Tonga people lost their villages, homes and fields in the process, while thousands of wild animals had to be relocated in "Operation Noah". Local lore says that spirit god Nyaminyami was upstream when the wall was built and got separated from his wife.

The team haven't entirely finished developing their storyline.

"But we aim to draw on local mythology and history as much as possible," says Hamman. 

They've already named their feisty main character: Siku, Nyaminyami's daughter. Her quest will be to find a solution to the feud between those building the dam and those they have displaced.

Sneak previews from the book, posted on Blue Forest Collective's webpage, show some of the illustrations: palm-studded islands in the Zambezi River, the stump-studded Lake Kariba itself and an enormous crocodile propelling itself to the surface of the turquoise waters.

Says Hamman: "We received a lot of positive feedback from producers after we presented the project at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France in 2015," he said.

"However, it was hard for us to further the conversation without a properly developed script. We decided that we wanted to be able to develop the story independently, but we are not writers so it was a natural leap to develop the story visually and a graphic novel just made sense."

"Once this stage [the book] is complete, we'll have a finished product that can then be adapted into a film," Hamman said.

The book should be ready to go to print in nine months. 

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