By Anastasia Paulus
WINDHOEK – Children all over the world, including Africa and particularly Namibia, are spoiled for choices when it comes to hundreds of cartoon channels available to them on television.
But popular cartoon series like SpongeBob SquarePants, Tom and Jerry, Dexter’s Laboratory, Teen Titans, Pingu, Chirp or Thomas and Friends are more tailored for kids in the Americas and Europe.
This void provided a unique opportunity for Luis Munana, to create a puppetry show for Namibian children, which merges education and entertainment.
Munana, an internationally acclaimed model and former Big Brother Africa housemate last Saturday launched the children’s programme titled ‘Waka Waka Moo’ at Goethe Institute in Windhoek.
Waka Waka Mo is educational cartoons and life puppets programme that consist of children songs, dance, storytelling and cultural preservation through local vernaculars like Rukwangali, Oshiwambo, Otjiherero and others including English.
In the programme, Munana explore African and Namibian folklore, mathematics, geography, basic child safety, health, music, financial literacy, games and dancing.
He also drafted in local celebrities to do a cameo and sing a lesson song with the children and puppet on set.
According to the creator, Waka means something different in every African country. In this context it means ‘go on’, while ‘Moo’ was added word to denote childlike speech. If you were to give it a translation it would mean ‘Go on, Go on Moo” or ‘Continue Continue Moo’.
“So the overall message is go on or continue doing and chasing your dreams,” Munana explained. He said the idea to create the children television programme was inspired during his stay in Big Brother Africa house. During the first week of the reality TV show, housemates – divided in two groups – were tasked to stage a musical play.
“My team decided to wing it and have fun with it by putting on a funny childish unrealistic musical. It was called ‘Waka Waka Moo’.
“We explored our imagination and did very childish things. I was tasked to write the script for everyone in my team and I did so for the first time in my life I became a script writer with a heavy task placed on me,” he said.
He was also inspired to do the project after watching his nieces and nephews watching Western cartoons that they enjoy so much “but have no relativity to who they are whatsoever.”
He narrated that: “I was babysitting my nephews and nieces. I saw them watch TV namely cartoons, they knew every single word being said by the cartoons on TV and every single song.
“But the shows they watch have no African significance to their roots or who they are. It’s very western. Then it hit me, we as African Namibians are not represented in cartoon form and we do not have puppetry or cartoon shows on TV telling our stories and adventures it’s all Western.
“It was then that I realized I have to be the change I want to see in the world. So my mission to create the show officially began. And one year later here we are making it a reality”. There are segments in the show that are in cartoon form, while others involve child hosts interacting with real life hand puppets.
“I want the Namibian child to watch TV and be able to watch cartoons hearing them speak their native African language. They need to remember their stories and realize that they too have Namibian and African heroes and kings, queens, and princesses,” he said.
The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, the Namibian Film Commission (NFC) and the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture have commended Munana for his noble effort.
Shikundu Kamati, a producer at the NFC said the film commission will continue supporting “the making of quality content that kids can call their very own – content to inform, educate, entertain and inspire all the Namibian’s children”.
Krischka Stoffels, Chief Media Officer at the Audio-visual Media Directorate of the ICT ministry explained that having local content on Namibian TV screens is important for the ministry. “As we all know, whatever happens in early childhood development, whether negative or positive, has lifelong ramifications. It shapes a person. It is important that we instil a sense of pride in our children a sense of nationhood and national pride. And let them know that they are important to us. So important that programmes are developed especially for them,” Stoffels said.