African animation wins global award!

By Mpho Nakana

An animated short film produced completely in Sepedi, one of South Africa’s 12 official languages, has won a BAFTA in the Animation category of the 2023 BAFTA Student Awards.

Thaba Ye, which means “This Mountain” in English, tells the story of a young brave girl who undertakes a long journey to a mysterious mountain in a remote part of South Africa in order to save her sick brother’s life. It is not an easy feat as the Bapadi people have told legends for years about the many people who have ventured into the big mountain and have never been seen again.

The film is the varsity project of an ensemble of talented young animators who include South Africa’s very own Mogau Kekana, who pursued his masters through the prestigious Gobelins School of Animation in Paris, France, which is ranked number one globally.

Kekana is an illustrator and animator from Hillbrow in Johannesburg. His works focus on creating proud, authentic and relatable African characters and stories. He’s also created some work depicting the Bapedi people, so you can tell he had a big influence in getting the Bapedi narrative as the focal point of this project.

Kekana’s portfolio includes notable works like Red Ants. It tells a thought-provoking story about South Africa’s infamous private security company that evicts illegal dwellers, easily identified by their red overalls.

In 2020, he worked as a storyboard artist on the first African Netflix original animated series Supa Team 4, about four teens who are recruited to become superheroes in their community.


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