The need to showcase, document and publicize the work of digital artists in Africa brought together a group of like-minded young Ghanaians to create Squid Mag.
Squid Mag is basically the plug for all things comic books, animation and video games from Africa.
“Think IGN, CBR, Kotaku and Cartoonbrew combined, but for Africa. What we do basically is to showcase what’s happening on the continent and to an extent in the diaspora through features, reviews, interviews, press releases and news articles,” Kadi Yao Tay, the co-founder of Squid Mag told Kuulpeeps.
“There wasn’t, and there still isn’t really a platform where you can go to for exclusive stories on the animators, illustrators and game developers across Africa. We needed to be that bridge. Even though we’ve started this, we’ve barely scratched the surface,” he added.
Kadi likes to think of himself as “the last interstellar shinobi from a galaxy far, far away”. “That makes absolutely no sense. But all of that is to say, I like art, comics, fantasy, sci-fi anime and geek culture. While people enjoy parties and the likes, you’ll find me immersed in a Webtoon, catching up with anime or just thinking about stuff,” he said. “For a more generic answer though, I’m a digital marketer who fronts as a walking encyclopedia of African comics.”
He is also the co-founder of the Accra Animation Film Festival, runs an online media company called Dark Lantern which owns several content hubs including Squid Mag, Noanyi, Awam & YPKI (upcoming), and is the convener of Frame x Frame Animation Nights and Sketch Jam.
As a geek, Kadi is acquainted with people who associate with the kind of things he’s crazy about; one of such persons is his childhood friend Kofi Sydney Asare, whom he co-founded Squid Mag with.
Kadi describes Kofi as a “proper geek.”
Kofi is a comic book and animation lover who’s invested in sci-fi and all the alternate realities it presents.
Narrating how they both came together to create Squid Mag, Kadi said: “It was founded at a mall in Accra, Ghana, between two old schoolmates, Kofi Sydney Asare and I. Two different countries shaped its founding. One is Burkina Faso and Kofi’s involvement with Burkinabe-French street artist El Marto. Kofi came across El Marto’s magazine stash, specifically Fluide Glacial, a French satirical comic magazine. Kofi wanted to do something similar for Ghana.”
“Then there’s me, influenced by Ghana and the growing digital art scene in the country right after high school. I am part of a creative collective called Akolabone, Akolabone is a lifestyle brand with anime and manga at the core of our thinking. Led by my good friend and awesome illustrator Kobina Taylor, we were making t-shirts and merch with all these cool, original illustrations that married anime & manga aesthetics with Ghana. In our own small way, we represented a new breed of urban creativity. We were putting out a lot of comic-related content and Kofi knew about this. He wanted us to be on the front page of the magazine along with other creatives doing cool things in Ghana.”
“At the time too, I was curating Ghanaian digital art on my Tumblr. It was much harder to find different Ghanaian illustrators back then so this blog was my way of organizing stuff so it was easy for myself and others to find Ghanaian digital art.”
“Kofi shared his vision for the magazine to focus on the often-overlooked digital creative scene in Ghana then. Our visions aligned and we got together to figure out a direction for the magazine.”
“In figuring out the direction for the mag, it occurred to us that we both knew about other cool creators from other countries. This meant there were even more amazing creatives across the continent that would be a good fit. Online was the fast and cheapest way to start the magazine, so we set up our blog. We started digging into creatives across Africa and just grew from there.”
And that’s how Squid Mag was birthed sometime in 2015. Along the way, Kadi and Kofi found other “weirdos” who also think like them. They are Nana Yaa Serwaa Osei, Tobi Oluwafemi, Cassandra Mark and Kiyindou Yamakasi. Others include Fafa and Elom Macauley, Elizabeth Temitayo Johnson, Dela Attikesse and Kevin Sampong.
Further explaining why they chose the name “Squid”, Kadi said: “it was just a cool, unique name that goes great with our tagline, ‘Ink Creativity’. But the basis for it was simply drawing parallels between Squids squirting ink and artists using ink or the idea of it (digitally or traditionally) to make magic.”
On there hand, Kadi Tay was included in a team of African animation creators and enthusiasts, that researched and brainstormed for the creation of Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire, a Disney+ Original ten-part collection animated anthology inspired by the continent’s diverse histories and cultures, set to premiere exclusively on Disney+ in late 2022.
Revealing how he got the opportunity to be part of such a huge project, he said: “I got a response to our bi-weekly (at the time) newsletter, the Squid Mail, from Triggerfish, who are basically showrunners for Kizazi Moto.”
“I got a brief of what they wanted to do and they asked if I would be interested. I was like, hell yeah! Anything to push African animation forward. This was followed by several online meetings, where we collectively analyzed story pitches, shared our thoughts, scored the different submissions, had good laughs and convos about Africa, sci-fi, animation, and amazing talent on the continent. This probably lasted about 2 months. We basically longlisted the strongest submissions for the next stage.”
“Much later, I got the opportunity to brainstorm the name for the anthology with different people across the continent. That was so much fun.”
However, Squid Mag, as a group of amazing content creators of African animations, have also worked and collaborated with quite a number of international organisations that seek to promote animations and comics.
They collaborated with Institut Français, through which they attended the Angouleme International Comics Festival 2019, as well as, Annecy 2021.
They have also collaborated with the Accra Animation Film Festival and the Writers Project of Ghana, through which they have been running the comic experience at the Pa Gya Literary Festival since it started in 2017.
“I’d say having the weight of work we’ve been able to do so far speak for us. I’ve been on panels and in different spaces where I’ve heard people talk about Squid in a way that reminds me that we’re doing important work. That honestly keeps us going because that’s the main reward we’ve gotten from doing this,” Kadi said about what they have been able to achieve so far as a group.
On the project they have coming up, Kadi said: “right now, we’re slowly transitioning into comics publishing and animation production. We’ve got an anthology of Ghanaian comics coming up (initially planned for last year).”
“That aside, we’re aiming to scale up to become the ultimate go-to for all things related to geeks in Africa. We want to be the gateway into this space and to be the mothership that all others connect to. That’s what we’re trying to achieve with Bahari Blue, our database of African comics, animation and more,” he added.
Kadi also sees a future where Squid Mag becomes self-sustainable, which will enable them generate enough revenue so they can pay contributors, pull off their own events on a large scale, travel across the continent covering events, financially back different projects and just go all-in pushing African creators to the forefront.
“I can’t wait to do Squid Mag full time once it becomes sustainable enough,” Kadi said.
“Above all, I’m hopeful that we can also inspire other people to do what we’re doing with a fresh spin on things. We can’t possibly cover everything and so the more players there are, the more exciting the comics and animation scene will get.”
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