How 'Iwaju's' storytellers bridge an African narrative with a global audience

ByNzinga Blake and Alexis Johnson-Fowlkes OTRC logo
Wednesday, March 20, 2024
How 'Iwaju' bridges an African narrative with a global audience
"Iwaju" is an action-packed, sci-fi, coming-of-age story that bridges an African narrative with a global audience. Stream the series now on Disney+.

LOS ANGELES -- Walt Disney Animation and Kugali Media's collaboration to bring audiences "Iwájú" has garnered a positive response across the African Diaspora. The new, action-packed, sci-fi, coming-of-age series is based in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria.

Creators Olufikayo "Ziki" Adeola, Hamid Ibrahim and Toluwalakin Olowofoyeko sat down with ABC's On the Red Carpet Storytellers Spotlight to talk about their groundbreaking and historic series that explores themes of class, inequality, innocence, and the courage to challenge the status quo.

Executive producer and creator Hamid Ibrahim expressed enthusiasm for collaborating with Disney to share a unique African narrative.

"We are really excited to be working alongside Disney Animation to bring you a special story, a story from Africa," he said.

"Iwájú" follows a young girl named Tola from the island of Lagos, who becomes friends with a boy named Kole from the mainland. Although the two come from very different worlds and classes, they are both drawn to explore each other's worlds, shedding light on the harsh realities of social disparities, while celebrating resilience and triumph.

The creators aimed to craft a story that would resonate with African audiences through certain cultural elements and themes, while also appealing to global audiences by infusing universal human experiences.

Producer and creator Toluwalakin Olowofoyeko connected his love for anime and Spanish soap operas, which are enjoyed globally in various languages, emphasizing the significance of how compelling stories have the power to transcend cultures.

"So I grew up watching anime and most anime fans prefer to watch their anime in Japanese," he said. "And I know many people who watch their soap operas in Spanish, even if they don't understand the language. If the story is good, if the quality of the story is good, then people will consume it, regardless of the fact that it is bringing in another culture that is external to them."

He went on to say, "I think that as long as we keep it authentic, and we maintain a high quality in the kind of stories we tell, then people from anywhere in the world can enjoy the stories."

Like Los Angeles, New York and London, Lagos is a cultural capital where many art forms - like music, film, animation - are created at a high level, making the vibrant city the perfect setting for "Iwájú." Anchoring the story in Lagos offers the audience a new, exciting space for them to explore cultures and experiences outside their own.

"I think at the heart of every human being is an innate need to not only be understood, but to also understand," Adeola said. "As human beings, I think that we naturally seek connection with those around us. And storytelling is a means through which we can amplify that connection."

"Iwájú" is currently streaming on Disney+.

Disney is the parent company of Disney+ and this station.