Say goodbye to Clark Kent and hello to a host of badass superheroes known as Africa’s Legends.
These aren’t just any superheroes, however. They’re a unique set of characters drawn from the rich African tradition of storytelling and African folklore.
For Ghana-based gaming studio Leti Arts, the mission is to present these stories on a worldwide stage, mainstreaming the continent’s rich culture through a series of digital comics and interactive games.
“Leti Arts reimagines African folklore and historic legends, interspersed with fictional characters, as elite superheroes fighting crime in present day Africa,” the company’s website states. We’re poised on delivering “world class entertainment to our consumers.”
Developing quality interactive media games for the world to enjoy is just one part of the Leti Arts empire. The company also works to create job opportunities for young talent in Africa while working to cement the continent as a viable contender in the world gaming industry. Their commitment to fostering local talent, industry growth, and providing internships/training is what has earned the company international success thus far.
With a new digital game in the works, Leti Arts is looking to take its folklore-inspired projects to new heights. Atlanta Black Star spoke with Leti Arts’ PR manager Abena Addai to learn more about the company’s history, mission and influence behind its digital arts concepts.
ABS: When and why was Leti Arts founded?
Addai: Leti Arts was founded in 2009, and we currently have two offices in Ghana and Kenya. Leti was founded on the grounds of preserving our heritage and culture. Contemporary Africa hasn’t kept up with modern forms and genres of storytelling. This has caused a disconnect between millennials, our history and culture, and the actual content they consume. Leti aims to remedy this by curating all these stories, including our history and folklore, and present them in a way that our current generation is used to. We do this by creating interactive digital comics and mobile games that present stories of historic African legends in the 21st century with compelling visuals. We believe that digitization is a better long-term bet for preserving our heritage for future generations.
ABS: Your digital comics and mobile games are unique in that they draw inspiration from African folklore. Why did you think it was important to feature African culture in your digital projects?
Addai: We want to present the African heritage in a way that will make millennials both in Africa and the Diaspora genuinely excited to engage and interact with. The current ways of telling our stories are boring and not innovative. They also tend to be extremely exaggerated or watered down. We want to bring these stories to the world in a simple, fun, entertaining and authentic way. Our comics and games tell the stories of all these great legends that many millennials might not have even heard of.
ABS: What are the names of some of the characters featured in your Africa’s Legends superhero series, and which historic African figures/folklore characters were they inspired by?
Addai: We have Shaka Zulu, who is a descendant of the great Shaka Zulu from South Africa. He is a policeman who finds out that he can command the ghost army of his ancestor to come to his aid when he is in trouble.
Pharaoh was inspired by the ancient Pharaohs from Egypt. Our Pharaoh is unnamed and has just been awakened by a cosmic event after being dead for 200 years. He brings the Africa’s Legends together while seeking the reason why he has been awakened from his slumber.
Sundi and The Wadaabi Assassin are based on the nomadic Wodaabe tribe that can be found in Niger. These characters are highly skilled in martial arts and don’t see eye to eye despite having been trained by the same master.
Ananse is inspired by the popular god of wisdom from West African folklore. He inhabits the body of 16-year-old Selassie and puts him in trouble most of the time. He occasionally joins the Africa’s Legends when it suits him.
We also have a couple of fictional characters like Ruddy from Nigeria, who is the illegitimate child of President Mubacha and Donald, a tough street urchin.
ABS: I understand you have a new game in the works called Africa’s Legends Reawakening. What’s the story behind it? How do you plan to fund and develop it?
Addai: AL-Reawakening is the phase two of our existing Africa’s Legends game. It’s a multi-player RPG [role-playing game] that can be played on any mobile device. The game is set in the near future Africa and will see the release of 11 new and rebooted characters in the AL Universe. Three of them have just discovered their superpowers and are to figure out what it means to be an Africa’s Legend, since they are among the first. Their mission is to fight against societal cancers, and this is not an easy [task], as they have villains that try to hinder them in every possible way.
We are preparing to launch a Kickstarter campaign this October. We hope to raise $250,000 to fund this game.
ABS: How many downloads have your digital comics and mobile games gotten so far?
Addai: So far we have had 70,000 downloads without any aggressive marketing. [The] majority of these downloads are from Africa, especially Egypt. The rest are from America, Canada and the U.K.
ABS: What educational purpose(s) do your comics/mobile games serve regarding African life and culture?
Addai: Our oral traditions are dying out, which means that most of our stories and traditions which have been handed down from generation to generation will go with it. These are the stories we hope to capture in our comics. A kid wouldn’t have to read a whole lot of pages to learn about Shaka Zulu or Okomfo Anokye. These would all be accurately summarized in the comic. They would also have superheroes that they can relate to.
Apart from this, the Africa’s Legends franchise addresses some of the prevalent issues Africa faces. These include sanitation, corruption, jet fuel sniffing in children, child trafficking and a few others. We hope that by bringing these issues to light, Africans will rise up and work towards making our continent better.
ABS: In what ways does Leti Arts create job opportunities through gaming?
Addai: The business of developing Africa’s game industry will require business majors, intellectual property lawyers, entrepreneurs and institutions to teach and certify industry professionals. The potential for gaming to create jobs and improve lives in Africa is therefore extensive.
Already we have had success in empowering about 60 interns from tertiary institutions in Ghana. We have also mentored and encouraged 10 talented high school students to pursue degrees which allow them to follow their passion of developing games.
ABS: What does Leti Arts hope to accomplish over the next five years?
Addai: We want our superheroes to become household names worldwide. We want to have partnerships with African and global businesses to develop Africa’s Legends into a multi-faceted franchise that covers core comics, games, merchandise, feature films and animation (TV and TV series).
We also want to see increased downloads of our games and apps on the devices of young people in Africa and around the world.
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