Kenyan animation pioneer Kwame Nyong’o serves as the casting director and one of the executive producers of Twende, the first-ever Showmax Original 2D animated series, set to premiere on 1 December 2023.
The series is based in the vibrant fictional East African city of Milima and follows the journey of a boda-boda-driving pangolin who believes that “Life is about the journey, not the destination,” a philosophy that often clashes with his job.
Kwame has always harboured a passion for animation and the creation of positive, culturally-rich stories that resonate with African audiences.
This passion is evident in his children’s books, which feature African children and use African food as a conduit for cultural exchange, as well as his award-winning short film, The Legend of Lwanda Magere, which delves into the story of a renowned Luo warrior and his extraordinary abilities.
In an interview, Kwame expressed his excitement about the breakthrough that Twende represents for African animation and the process of selecting the right Kenyan voice cast to convey a uniquely African narrative that can be enjoyed by audiences globally.
He also shared his personal journey with animation, highlighting his interest in the art form since his university days and his eventual involvement in Twende after meeting co-creator Mike Scott at the UNESCO Africa Animated! project.
When asked about the voice casting process, Kwame described it as an exhilarating and enjoyable experience, expressing gratitude for the exceptional all-Kenyan voice talent that contributed to the show.
He also discussed the significance of the lead actors, Junior Nyong’o and June Gachui, and how their existing friendship added an authentic dynamic to their performances as the characters Twende and Nuru.
Kwame emphasized that Twende’s appeal lies not only in its high-quality animation but also in its portrayal of a local story that resonates with African audiences, featuring East African talent and showcasing unique animal characters uncommon in traditional children’s cartoons.
As a parent, he expressed his excitement about sharing the series with his children and witnessing their enthusiasm for the Swahili language and East African references depicted in the show.
Regarding the show’s target audience, Kwame highlighted the team’s efforts to strike a balance that appeals to both children and adults, aiming to create a world, themes, and dialogue accessible to a wider demographic. He expressed hope that Twende would contribute to the growth of the animation industry in Kenya and break boundaries to reach a global audience.
Ultimately, Kwame aspires for African audiences to recognize the value of their own stories and to appreciate the relevance and richness of narratives that reflect their experiences, emphasizing that African stories are as compelling as any foreign counterparts, if not more so.