Kwame Nyong’o is the casting director and part of the executive producers of “Twende,” the first-ever Showmax Original 2D animated series. A trailblazer in his own right Kwame is one of Kenya’s pioneer animators. He is also a writer, illustrator, and storyteller with merits in popular children’s books such as “A Tasty Maandazi.”
He credits “Anansi the Spider” by Gerald McDermott for sparking his interest in animation. Despite majoring in Fine Arts major in university, Kwame Nyong’o explored mediums such as drawing, photography, and sculpture. “My painting professor used to say, ‘I see you like all these mediums; why don’t you mix them all together somehow?’. I found that mixture with animation.” He says.
Kwame Nyong’o has always been passionate about animation and weaving positive, culturally rich stories that resonate with African audiences. His creative endeavors include children’s books that explore the adventures of African children and delve into cultural exchange through African cuisine. Moreover, Nyong’o’s portfolio also boasts the Kalasha-winning and Africa Movie Academy Awards-nominated short film “The Legend of Lwanda Magere.” A tale about the legendary Luo warrior and his extraordinary powers that challenge his integrity and morals.
Speaking ahead of the anticipated Showmax debut, the filmmaker expressed his utter joy in being part of this production. “Projects like Twende help dispel the myth that ‘west is best’. This gives me joy and a sense of making the world a slightly fairer place.” He said.
Kwame further noted that he can’t wait to watch Twende with kids saying, “Apart from all the hijinks, action, and fun, I noticed how kids get so excited whenever a character says a word in Swahili. Or like when they see a reference to something uniquely East African like a mandazi or a boda boda.”
Kwame Nyong’o on The “Twende” Casting Process
“Twende” is set to premiere on Showmax on December 1, 2023, with new episodes on Saturdays. Set in the vibrant fictional city of Milima in East Africa, “Twende” follows the adventures of a boda-boda-driving pangolin, whose philosophy of ‘Life is about the journey, not the destination’ clashes with his everyday job. Staring Junior Nyong’o and June Gachui, this animation was produced by London-based Braintrust and Johannesburg-based Mind’s Eye Creative.
“Casting for Twende himself took the longest as it was quite a challenge to find that right balance of a laidback and chill character who at the same time is active and drives the story. We looked at many very talented artists, but none quite fit the character we were looking for – until Junior Nyong’o jumped into the fray and proved he was the fellow for the job!” remarks the Twende casting director. ”Junior and June worked out so well; it was amazing. I found out, totally unexpectedly, that they had known each other before, as neighbors growing up! This element definitely elevated their performances, imbuing their delivery with that authentic sense of old friends, perfect for the roles of best friends Twende and Nuru.” He adds.
“Twende” stands out as a significant achievement in African animation. Kwame assures viewers that this production will wow them with its exceptional quality and relatable African story. Furthermore, it presents animals that are not common in typical children’s cartoons. They include creatures like a pangolin, and a mongoose as well as a lilac-breasted roller – Kenya’s national bird.
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