Crouched on a chair, eyes on the desktop computer monitor, hand on the key board, with full concentration he works.
I get so close to see the centre of such paramount concentration, only to see cartoons on the monitor screen.
I shrug and ask him what childish thing he is down right there. He explains to me that this is no childish play, this is what’s putting food on his table, and I look at him with my jaw dropped, eyes wide open.
What childish thing like this puts food on the table? But wait, it’s not just the food you know, this childish thing is the source of his car that is parked outside the house.
This is none other than the Director and Animator, Justice Mkumba, under the banner M-Jay Studios.
He has managed to make ends meet from animation production, and is the only certified animator in Malawi.
“You are not the first nor the fourth, nor the last person to have had doubted what wonders animation production has managed to turn my life around,” Justice chuckles softly.
“When I had decided to leave my job and pursue animation as a career, I got so much negative feedback from my friends, family and relatives, they were all abashed by the idea of me leaving work only to pursue making cartoons for kids, because that’s what they all thought of only”, he narrates to me with a smirk on his face.
I look at him mouth wide open because I know his friends and family really did not anticipate this immaculate out come from just making animations.
“In the first place, let me point out the fact that making animations is not as easy as one sees them on the television, it requires a lot of patience, skills and time.
“You will find out that a Disney animation in the United State of America will make a lot of cash from an animation than a mere movie,” he narrates.
Mkumba explains that he first had his interest in animations, in the year 2011, upon watching Rango an animation on the television, the learning process lasted to 2016.
By that time he was working at a motor company, where he was purchasing cars. It was actually the marketing skill that he accumulated from car selling that made marketing his animated products much easier.
Justice holds a diploma in Business Management which he acquired from Corporate Governance and holds a diploma in 3rd Character Animation from an online mentor
“In the first place, I was oddly motivated from the negative energy I got from people for wanting to pursue such a business, I won’t lie my previous jobs were well paying, and I knew how to do my job. So when I decided to quit my job, my friends thought I had lost my mind,” he explained.
In 2017, Mkumba started his animations, the very first to be realized on social media was Bengo, whose aim was comedy, he explained how great it felt to see his work being liked by people, even those outside the country were amazed by this dazzling art in Malawi.
He was contacted by other international organizations to do some projects, like United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Mkumba worked with Faith Musa and produced the animation in the Mdidi song.
“That year, I stayed six months without any business, and I was even scared to ask my parents for money to buy an ordinary jumbo of charcoal,” he pointed out.
“This set back did not in any way weaken me, it instead gave me the wits to carry on this road I had chosen for myself, and there was just no way was I giving up like a coward,” Mkumba explains boldly.
He said that there are not many animators in the country and no school that trains people on the same but he would like to have his own firm that would be able to mold budding animators.
“Most people, organizations, even the government has not yet recognized animation as a viable art, I hope that my story helps someone to believe in their capabilities, I have managed to buy a car, and a land, something which I failed to do when I was working.
“I have worked at Mike Appall and GattoLimited in 2010. I worked for KIA motors, now known as HTD Limited until 2015. I worked for Stansfield motors in 2015 up to 2016, then I went back to Mike Appel and GattoLimited and then finally took animation making more seriously,”Mkumba added.
He narrated that growing up a kid, his father had a huge farm estate, where he and his siblings had some little tasks to carry out.
He relates how it has helped him to be more persistent and manage to stay longer hours working on a project.
Mkumba urged budding animators, and everyone who aspires to be something but is afraid of the negative energy from others.
“People will fail to see your potential in doing something but that should not make you go back ward but rather forge ahead and not pay deaf ear.”
“I am not inciting that you be stubborn even when the advice is good but rather encouraging someone to do anything boldly, and believe you can,” he concluded.
Mkumba admitted that making animations was a tedious and frustrating work, it needs skills such as video and audio editing, computer skills, computer hardware understanding and of course programming.
He said he charges K900, 000 for a minute animation and that this could either go up or down depending on the amount of work put in.
He has so far done projects such as Bengo, Mdidi, DSTV, 50-50 campaign by the UNDP, and Buy Malawi adverts, and it has really been a success.- BY COSTANCE PINDIKANI