Female Creators in African Comics

Female Creators From Africa

For a very long time, comic books have been seen as things for boys and young men. This was probably due to the fact that comics had always been likened to the “boyish” stuff: superheroes, fight scenes and guns. This has been true for American comics, Franco Belgian comics and Japanese manga. This trend was and is still being witnessed in almost all African countries where the majority of those who consume comics are young men. This is not to say that there aren’t any girls who love comic books that are filled with flying men, extraterrestrial explosions and devastating punches. Things have evolved and more girls are reading action and superhero comics. Added to that there are genres like slice of life and romance that have brought even more girls into the game, levelling a field that wasn’t flat.

So, yes, girls from different parts of the world now read comics of different genres and in different formats. However, one cannot help but wonder if this interest in the consumption of comics is also witnessed in the creation of this artform.

The number of female comic book creators (writers and artists) from across the world is growing tremendously. From American comics creators like Fiona Staples, passing through Franco Belgian damsels like Claire Bretécher, to female Japanese mangakas like Rumiko Takahashi, the number of women who do comics is growing rapidly. In a world where equality has become a trend, it is interesting to see that there are quite a good number of women who are succeeding as comics creators, in the same light as their male counterparts.

In Africa, the situation is not very similar to the above. While there are many women who are excelling in this art, this sector is still heavily dominated by men. The African comic book industry is growing  and this growth will only soar with time, so it is quite questionable that despite this growth, women are not very interested in the trade. Some reasons for this status quo may be found in the environment, culture and shear personal preferences.

Nevertheless, even though the number of women in African comics are not yet very significant, the few who are working hard to create and distribute content on the continent are doing a phenomenal job.

Below, therefore, is a list of women who are contributing to the growth of African comics in a very significant way.

1. Marguerite Abouet

Marguerite Abouet African comics author on the zebra comics blog

Born in Abidjan to Ivorian parents, Marguerite Abouet is one of the most popular comic book creators from Africa. At the age of twelve, she was sent with her older brother to study in France under the care of a great uncle. She currently lives in Romainville, a suburb of Paris, with her husband, illustrator Clément Oubrerie (who illustrates her graphic concepts), and their young son. Her most prominent work is the graphic novel series, AYA OF YOP CITY. Aya tells the story of its 19-year old heroine, the studious and clear-sighted Aya; her easy-going friends Adjoua and Bintou; and their meddling relatives and neighbours. It’s a breezy and wryly funny account of the desire for joy and freedom, and of the simple pleasures and private troubles of everyday life in Yop City.

An unpretentious and gently humorous story of an Africa we rarely see– spirited, hopeful and resilient. Aya won the 2006 award for Best First Album at the Angouleme International Comics Festival. Clement Oubrerie’s warm colours and energetic, playful line connect expressively with Marguerite Abouet’s vibrant writing.

Elyons, also known as Joëlle Épée Mandengue is a Cameroonian comic book creator whose passion for comics is seen not only in her creative work, but in other platforms she created like the Bilili BD Festival and the Kubuni bandes dessinées d’Afrique(s) exposition. As far as comics and graphic novels are concerned, Elyons most successful work is “LA VIE D’EBENE DUTA”. This is a graphic novel which chronicles the daily life of a young black girl far from her country of origin. The story, scripted and drawn by Elyon’s, is delightful on several levels. There is no discourse on a fantasised Africa, nor is there yet another (re)visit of the clichés on immigration or all the misperceptions attached to black identity, making it a must read. As earlier mentioned, when Elyons is not creating comics, she is working on the very successful Bilili BD Festival, the Kubuni bandes dessinées d’Afrique(s) exposition or travelling around the world to attend other comic book festivals and promote African creations in the best ways possible.

3. An Nina

An Nina a female African comics author on the zebra comics blog - Copy

An Nina, whose birth name is Appolonia Otam, is a Cameroonian writer whose work has contributed immensely to the growth of the Cameroonian and African comic book landscape. A founding member of Zebra Comics PLC, An Nina grew up reading a lot of comics and eventually developed not just a passion for comics but also a veritable skill for creating them. An Nina is the creator of the original comic book titled, ALIYA. It tells the story of a young woman (Aliya) who is a successful translator by day and the incarnation of a goddess by night. This duality in her personality makes her a very sought after person by elements of the dark and so she must fight to preserve herself and whatever the universe has set apart from her. When An Nina is not writing comics, she works as a translator. She has translated several comic book titles for Zebra Comics PLC from English to French, thereby making it possible for Francophone readers across the world to be able to enjoy African comics.

reine dibussi african comics creator on the zebra comics blog

Reine Dibussi was born in Yaoundé. She is a Cameroonian and French 2D illustrator, cartoonist and author of comics. Like Elyon’s, she is one of the few women working in the Cameroonian comic book industry. She spent her childhood in the capital city of Yaoundé in the Oyom-Abang neighbourhood and then in Ekié with her family. The last of four (04) girls, Reine and her sisters grew up surrounded by books, especially children’s literature and illustrated books. In this environment, she read a lot of comics and watched a lot of animated shows. This generated her passion for stories, art and illustrated narratives. With this background, she decided to develop her artistic skills after two years at the undergraduate level studying language and civilization. She therefore attended the Emile Cohl School in Lyon for five years, at the end of which she obtained a diploma in illustration design. Her most prominent work is the graphic novel series titled MULATAKO. Mulatako tells the story of Jéméa, a Jengu water spirit child who goes to Pamba, the initiation school and learns that she will have to repeat her class. At the same time, the High Council of Chiefs decides to exterminate the school’s students and teachers who have contracted a disease that turns them into mutants. Jéméa, her family and friends do not intend to let this happen. But since she is sick and powerless, she flees her world where she is threatened with death and finds herself in the less advanced world of humans. Mulatako (which means “Union”) is a four-part comic book series based on the myth of Mami-Wata. Still called Miengu in the beliefs of the large Sawa group in Cameroon, this myth is also common to many African and Afro Descendant peoples.

Armandine Atangana african comics creator on the zebra comics blog

Armandine Atangana is an artist and comic book creator who has been on the scene for a while now. From childhood, this lady who originates from the Centre Region of Cameroon has always loved art. She drew a lot and this quickly transformed into her desire to see her own creation come to life. To make this dream come true, she joined a group of artists called BlackTrek and with them, she honed her artistic skills and created a few comics. Later on, she worked with Kiro’o Games on the project Aurion Kajuta Gems Fighters. Her most prominent work today is a comic book titled, Tié Nneme.

Beti Ophelie African Comics creator on the zebra comics blog

Beti Ophelie is an artist who has great passion for comics and art in general. She is a Cameroonian whose love of comics was ignited when she read Franco Belgian comics (Blek, Zembla) made available by her mother. When she discovered these characters and worlds, she developed the desire to create her own characters and stories. With this, she began training herself in comic book illustration and art and this culminated in a job with Zebra Comics PLC. Beti Ophelie’s most notable work is found in KAWANA, a comic and webtoon series published by Zebra Comics PLC.

Carine Umutoniwase African comics creator on the zebra comics blog

Carine is from Kenya. She is an activist and a member of the youth organisation called Footprints for Change, which aims to transform Kenyan youth by exposing them to values, knowledge, and skills that promote an accountable society through innovative training in leadership for different enterprises. She’s the author of the ALEDNAM comic which spelt backwards is Mandela. Alednam seeks to bring out everyday living in our societies and the challenges we face and moreover highlight what we as young people can do. Talk about hope.

Cassandra-Mark African comics creator on the zebra comics blog

Cassandra Mark is an award-winning writer, comic book creator and anime enthusiast resident in Lagos, Nigeria. She is the author and creator of the hit comic TATASHE, published by Comic Republic. She is an Award-winning writer and Visual Development artist with over 5 years of experience specialising in comic book illustrations, character and world conceptualization, storyboarding and creative contention at local and global levels.She is also a hardcore gaming junkie who enjoys gardening, Yoga, and dabbles in African spirituality. Other comics related work she has done include HERO KEKERE, published by Comic Republic.

Zainab Fasiki is a Moroccan graphic artist, activist for women’s rights and mechanical engineer by training. She became internationally known after 2019, following her graphic novel HSHOUMA, CORPS ET SEXUALITE AU MAROC which was translated from French into Moroccan Arabic, Spanish, Galician and Italian. Fasiki joined the comic book collective Skefkef, and in 2017 published a first feminist comic strip, called OMOR (Things), in which she explored the difficulties of a woman’s life in Morocco. Through the characters of three young Moroccan women, she denounced the social inequalities between men and women. Her work, which she publishes on social media and as graphic novels, criticises censorship, taboos and notions of shame in Morocco.

Leïla Slimani African comics creator on the zebra comics blog

Leila Slimani is the bestselling author of The Perfect Nanny, one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2018, for which she became the first Moroccan woman to win France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt. Her other books include Adèle, Sex and Lies, and the #1 international bestsellers In the Country of Others and Watch Us Dance, which are the first and second parts of a trilogy of novels based on her family’s roots in revolutionary Morocco. Slimani is French president Emmanuel Macron’s personal representative for the promotion of the French language and culture, and is the chair of the jury for the 2023 International Booker Prize. 

Her most prominent work in comics is A MAINS NUES – 1900-1921, a biography of Suzanne Noël, a feminist committed to women’s suffrage and a pioneer of reconstructive surgery. She operated on many soldiers disfigured by shells during the First World War alongside Professor Hippolyte Morestin. Both of them developed revolutionary surgical protocols to restore dignity to broken heads.

And here comes the best! Nnedimma Nkemdili “Nnedi” Okorafor (formerly Okorafor-Mbachu) is a Nigerian-American writer of science fiction and fantasy for both children and adults. She is best known for her Binti Series and her novels Who Fears Death, Zahrah the Windseeker, Akata Witch, Akata Warrior, Lagoon and Remote Control. She has also written for comics and film. Her writing is Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism, which is heavily influenced by her dual Nigerian and American heritage. She is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Eisner Award and World Fantasy Award. She is considered to be among the third generation of Nigerian writers. 

As far as comics are concerned, Nnedi Okorafor has created stories for the greats like Marvel Comics and has even created her own series. Some of her most prominent works in comics include; LAGUARDIA, WAKANDA FOREVER, BLACK PANTHER: LONG LIVE THE KING, THE SHURI SERIES and AFTER THE RAIN. These comics tell deeply intriguing stories with complex characters who live in exotic worlds. You will certainly agree here that with some of the names on her list of comics, there is no doubt that she should be the most celebrated African comic book creator out there.

In yesteryears, when anyone mentioned comics, the first thing that certainly came to mind was superhero characters in picture books meant for teenage boys. It goes without saying that this perception has greatly changed and the evolution that followed has seen girls getting more and more interested and engaged in this popular artform. Today, as this article clearly portrays, African women are at the forefront of both the consumption and creation of comics. And, arguably, women creators like Marguerite Abouet and Nnedi Okorafor are amongst the most successful African comics creators of all time, all genders inclusive.

2 thoughts on “Female Creators in African Comics”

  1. Beti ophelie is my favorite. She is a new name and she drew knew of my favorite comics on the Zebra Comics app.
    Go girl! Your talent is unmatched. I’m so happy that Zebra Comics showed us that you were a hidden gem.

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