Shingai MtezoBy Shingai Mtezo|July 14, 2022|8 Minutes|In RnG Brand Story

Risk and Glory

Ruvara Animation

It is generally accepted that Africa is not only the cradle of mankind but also the birthplace of numerous forms of art, in particular, the art of storytelling. Every culture in Africa generally has a long and unique history of art and storytelling. They have served as the primary way to preserve and pass on knowledge and wisdom for a very long time. Creativity still forms a natural part of Africans existence today. It is the reason why you see so many toothy smiles across Africa despite tough standards of living that many of them endure. Africans always create happiness with whatever resources they have at their disposal!

Storytelling had humble beginnings in the form of cave paintings and
has evolved into a global entertainment industry worth US$2.43 trillion. Animation alone holds a US$200bn dollar share of that industry. The big elephant in the room is the small participation of Africans in this sector. Ruvara Animation is a company currently based in Harare, Zimbabwe that is positioning itself to be a key player in the emergence of Africa’s animation industry. The word Ruvara is an adjective that describes the colour or pattern of an object and like our name and logo suggests, we are a vibrant creative force born out of Africa whose primary objective is to create world class entertainment that is built around an African aesthetic. We want to build experiences that resonate well not only with Africans but with global audiences as well.

Since inception, we primarily serviced local Zimbabwean clients in the advertising space producing commercials for television and the digital space. This served as our cash cow and we enjoyed modest success initially even though our main plan was to create our own intellectual property. Zimbabwe, as presently constructed, is a tough environment for creative enterprises. Marketing and communications budgets continue to diminish year on year as businesses try to protect their balance sheets.This has led to the emergence of sub economic budgets coupled with destructive bidding practices amongst competing vendors. Instead of closing rank to defend itself, a burgeoning industry is cannibalizing itself because ultimately, when budgets fall, creativity takes a detour as well!

We were now caught in an infinite loop where the market forces in a depressed market were now threatening to derail Ruvara’s destiny. We simply had to pivot the business model by accelerating our plan of creating our own intellectual property to ensure survival and growth. I figured Africa has over a billion people and half of the population is under the age of 25. The potential of this market alone is phenomenal. Critically, there are only a handful of animation and visual effects studios actively participating in this market. The bulk of animated content currently consumed in Africa comes from the traditional markets namely the US, European and Japanese markets. Another positive is many people in Africa are already familiar with quality animated content, the market is already educated and desperate for relatable animated content with a high production value.

Quality content also opens up opportunities to hit two birds with one stone. The content will not only be embraced across Africa but it will give us a chance to break into the traditional markets as well.

Moving from a “cheap and nasty” business model to a measured high production value model. was always going to be an uphill task because it meant unlearning certain workflows we had become accustomed to and embracing Hollywood level workflows. The first step was to develop proof of concepts. It was a great opportunity for us to upskill ourselves within a framework of a production we intend to monetize once complete. Budgets are extremely limited to non-existent but we had all the time we needed. Ruvara’s development slate currently consists of the following titles: Nyundo:The Gemrock, Savannah Chronicles, Rozi and Urban Tales.

Nyundo:The Gemrock (Full Feature)
This is the first installment of a trilogy of films. It’s an action adventure film set in the ancient Bantu ancestral home known by numerous African vernacular names as “The Land of Tall Reeds” . This film is a story about the rise of a wise king who ruled with impunity. Life in the kingdom takes a turn for the worse as the king’s past desire turns into an obsession to the detriment of his family and his kingdom. His children make a decision to try correct the grave situation but it will come with unexpected twists and consequences.

Savannah Chronicles (Series)
This is an animated series featuring short stories about some of Africa’s fascinating entrepreneurs. It is being developed in partnership with Billionaire Tomorrow Magazine. These short films will essentially be mini biopics narrated by the entrepreneurs themselves with a primary goal to inspire
and also showcase the textured journey to success many entrepreneurs experience but few people know about. The pilot episode is already in production.

ROZI: Once Upon A Bush Time (Full Feature)
Rozi is a charming feature film based on a book by author Janet Kashula’s Rosie-The African Elephant. It is a story set in the Zambezi Valley that is built around an underlying theme of forgiving the unforgivable as well as exploring the human and wildlife dynamic that exists in the African wilderness. ROZI has been in development for the last 5 years and is almost ready to pitch to investors and distributors. Full production will start in 2023.

Urban Tales (Series)
This a brave attempt at getting into the emerging market of adult animation. It is a series of modern African short stories that cover various genres that include action and horror. The project is still in early development

In conclusion, I firmly believe Ruvara Animation’s growth and strength lie in creating Afrocentric narratives. We started off crawling and now we are walking as we prepare to start running and eventually sprinting towards our goal of becoming a key player in Africa’s animation and Metaverse spaces. There is so much to do!

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