‘Bino and Fino’ is an animated children’s educational series centered around a brother and sister ‘who live in a modern day city in sub- Saharan Africa’. Each episode introduces pre-schoolers to African history, culture and languages.
We spoke to series creator Adamu Waziri to learn about the show and his inspiration for the series.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background? When and how did you get into animation?
I studied and worked outside of Nigeria for a while. I first did architecture and have always been into design and drawing ever since I was a child. I used to draw like mad when young. That is why I studied architecture. However I knew I wanted to do either cartoons or comics because I had a passion for them. I always watched cartoons as a child and in fact I haven’t stopped to this day.
So whilst studying architecture I looked into computer animation and did a Master’s degree in that. This was of course after having to convince my parents I wasn’t mad. To their credit they let me do it. I then proceeded to work in various animation companies in London for about 10 years. I wasn’t the most talented but I worked very hard.
When I came back to Nigeria, I set up my own animation company called EVCL mainly because no one could afford to hire me. I had to adjust to the Nigerian context regarding my chosen industry. It was a scary and interesting time as I had become so used to the employee/creative way of doing things whilst in the U.K. and now had to switch overnight to being a business owner.
After doing several projects for clients I quickly realised that I wanted my company to create its own original shows. That’s when my new journey really started. The first project I chose to embark on was Bino and Fino.
How did the inspiration for ‘Bino and Fino’ come about?
The idea to do a Nigerian based cartoon had been in my head for over a decade. I suppose that is normal as an artist / animator, you tend to want to create something that relates to where you are from. If you go and speak to most animators they will tell you the same thing. The hard part is doing it.
The concept of Bino and Fino the show as it exists now didn’t materialize until about 2008. I had always known that we have no indigenous cartoons for our children to watch. All the cartoons Nigerian children watch are foreign, imported and have no sub-Saharan African cultural reference.
However it took me a while to really understand how damaging this situation is. Basically the world’s largest black nation doesn’t produce any animated content for its children. I mean doesn’t that sound crazy? With all the wealth and talent present we have not produced one educational cartoon program of note for children to watch. Now we have generations of young Nigerian children growing up watching exclusively foreign material with no representation of themselves as blacks, Nigerians and African.
Do you feel that you’ve been influenced by other animators/kids TV shows for ideas for Bino and Fino?
I have definitely been influenced. It is almost impossible not to be due to the creative nature of the project and the fact that I have been a fan of animation, animators and kids TV shows for years. However I can’t pick one show that served as the sole source of inspiration.
What distinguishes ‘Bino and Fino’ from other popular cartoon characters?
Bino and Fino are characters that aren’t represented in mainstream children’s cartoons. They are simple, middle class, children who have a passion for learning about life. They just happen to live in a black sub-Saharan African context. I believe that there is a lot of power in that simplicity.
How did you develop the characters? Are they based on people that you know?
It’s a mix. Some of the characters are based on people I know where as others are not. But I can’t say which ones are which. I would like to keep that secret for now.
How has the general response been for the show? Is it different depending on the location of the viewer?
The response has been generally positive. 1st – 2nd generation Afro Caribbean communities in the Diaspora I would say are the most passionate about the show for now. That’s closely followed by more established communities like African Americans. They like the fact that the show has elements that help them and their children connect with modern and historical Africa. Viewers outside of those communities like those same qualities about the show to as they get to learn about African culture, geography and history.
In Nigeria most viewers have expressed pleasant surprise that such a show exists. Parents are happy that they have a Nigerian or African cartoon they can show their children that incorporates aspects of their daily lives and culture.
The interesting thing I would say we have had the most passionate response from small pockets of viewers in places like Stockholm and Amsterdam. Viewers in Brazil are also asking us to translate the show into Portuguese which is great.
Three pilot episodes were produced 4 years ago. We are now producing 26 new episodes which will be completed next year. We intend to release one new episode from season 2 by the end of 2014. We are looking at cinema, DVD releases and are also speaking to different TV stations around the world who want to broadcast the show. Beyond that we will be looking expanding the Bino and Fino world into different product ranges, like books for instance.
Something else we are interested in being part of is the creation of an African children’s channel but that is much further down the line.
How can our readers learn more about the show?
Interview by H. Esi.