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We don't understand what an inventive spirit is: Interview with Carl Joshua Ncube
Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa,
February 24, 2010

Read Inside / Out with Carl Ncube

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Carl NcubeCarl J Ncube has used his talent for creativity in diverse projects. As an animator he wrote and directed Nyami-Nyami, the first animated film to be shown in the history of the Zimbabwe International Film Festival. He is also responsible for the introduction of motion graphics to ZTV.

Why did you pick animation as a film genre?
It was a mistake in two parts. I was studying to be a nurse in England and in between working at part time jobs, like security and hotels or whatever and I randomly bought a book on flash animation. I was already an artist anyway so I thought the coincidence was pretty cool. When I came back to Zimbabwe someone heard that I did cartoons and they hired me as an animator. I started by doing a couple of animations for television, spinning logos and graphics, and then started making my own little cartoons.

What in your opinion is the state of animation in Zimbabwe?
I think we're getting ready for a bit of a boom. Interest is certainly there. The facilities are there, and the technology is working in our favour. The nice thing about animation is that it's unorthodox, so we don't have to sit in large committee rooms for the industry to get organised. I'm pretty excited because our numbers are growing. A lot of kids in school want to be animators.

Do you think Zimbabwean animators need to collaborate?
People just need to swallow their pride a little and come together. A lot of people have their own animation projects that they want to do. I think collectively they need to pick a project and work it together. I think the industry will move a step further if they come together.

What stories inspire you?
I like demystifying stuff that people choose not to talk about. I'm very keen on tokoloshes, Nyami Nyamis and all of these goblins and things. I want to find out what secret society is lurking behind Victoria Falls; what civilisation hid a treasure in the middle of the Conical Tower . . . those kinds of things interest me. I enjoy comedy and taking a satirical look at things. I want something that identifies with who I am as a Zimbabwean. Listen

We have a lot of artists, musicians and filmmakers. Yet there aren't very many Zimbabwean stories out there. Where do you think the problem lies?
We are suffering from cultural extinction, which comes from the fact that our content isn't available online. For as long as the Internet has more sites that are British or American in content, we are less likely to convert our own content into that medium because we don't see how it will work for us. Zimbabweans are failing to see that it is our responsibility to get our stories online. Listen

There was a law a few years ago that mandated 100% local content in our mainstream media; did it foster enough quality content?
What people misunderstand is that quality has to come from somewhere. I think that we should have just been allowed to produce the content, as bad as it was, then we can start tweaking it and making it better. If we didn't have a starting point we wouldn't know what to do. The problem with Zimbabwe is that we don't understand what an inventive spirit is. Even with the advancement in technologies, we don't understand how to build on stuff. Listen

Do you think our culture is static and doesn't allow for free expression?
Yes. It's always considered a taboo when you do something contrary to the norm. We've got so many things that people don't want to change because they're stuck in an old fashioned way of thinking. That's how our culture is built. Do something different and you will get burnt; there'll be a public outcry. And the media are the ones who perpetuate that even more by pushing the notion that things must remain the same. What the media don't understand is that their role is to bring about innovation. Listen

What do you think is the state of the creative industry in Zimbabwe?
I think the creative industry took a major blow when we allowed companies to tell ‘creatives' how to do their job. Another area is the whole NGO angle; everyone is doing things and playing to the NGOs. That affects creativity completely if every story you tell has something to do with AIDS. But meanwhile you've got twenty thousand other stories that exist. I mean we understand that NGOs have a particular story that they want to bring across, but should that be at the expense of art? Is there no way that it can be done more creatively? Listen

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