Roye Okupe is Championing African Representation in Animation
We spoke with Roye Okupe about his studio, Iyanu getting adapted into an animated series, and storytelling for an African audience.
Roye Okupe isn’t holding back with African representation in the stories he tells. The Nigerian graphic novelist and filmmaker is the creator of Iyanu: Child of Wonder, which recently received a greenlight by HBO Max and Cartoon Network for adaptation into a 2D animated series.
“Growing up, I was a fan of animations, cartoons, but what I felt was missing was showing these stories [I was watching] from an African perspective,” Okupe told OkayAfrica. “So when I moved to the United States in 2002, it became a dream of mine to create superhero and fantasy stories inspired by African historical culture and mythology.”
In 2015, Okupe quit his full-time job as a web developer to pursue making comics and animation. That same year, he launched YouNeek Studios, and started bringing his vivid imaginations to life. His debut graphic novel, E.X.O: The Legend of Wale Williams, Part One, is a superhero story that blends Nigerian sensibilities with sci-fi motifs. He would also direct and produce a slew of animated projects, some of them adapted from his growing stable of comics publishing.
In 2019, the animated pilot of Malika: Warrior Queen arrived, creating a cross-industry buzz, not just for Nigeria’s burgeoning animation scene but for Nollywood as well. Using A-list stars like Adesumi Etomi and Deyemi Okanlowon as voice actors and with charming executions of character designs and profiles, the project made a mark for Nigerian animation.