Thandiwe Mlauli. Picture: Neo Baepi
Thandiwe Mlauli. Picture: Neo Baepi

Local production makes anime inspired series ‘Sola’

By Alyssia Birjalal Time of article published Aug 18, 2020

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South African animation is growing as there's another local production on the way.

“Studio Yezi”, an animation studio founded by Thandiwe Mlauli, officially announced their first development titled “Sola”.

It's South Africa's first independently produced and women-led afro-animation which will see Mlauli as producer, director and showrunner.

Mlauli’s passion project “Sola” is an action-adventure, fantasy and coming-of-age series about the adventures of a girl named Sola who experiences her magic awakening in a world where magic is dangerous and deadly.

Mlauli’s intention is to carve out a unique space in the SA animation and entertainment industry that focuses on heart-warming local stories, diverse narratives and character representations. She hopes to also help nurture and develop fresh local talent.

“I’ve always loved animation and in particular, Japanese animation. I’ve been obsessed with it since it was introduced to me in Grade 10 by a classmate. In my final year in (film) school, I had a thesis to do and I found myself uninspired by the topics I had been working on. I was also processing my sister’s death, and nothing felt real. I wanted something that would connect me to her, so I decided to write what would now become “Sola”,” said Mlauli.

She said the current landscape of animation in SA is not a true representation of its audience.

“Black people have been fans of fantasy, superhero, comic-book inspired stories and yet writers seem to forget us when they create.

“The current landscape does not reflect us at all. But it will once we’re done doing our work. As Black people, we want stories to escape into, to immerse into without having to imagine ourselves as another race to relate to the story,” Mlauli said.

Describing the storyline and core theme, Mlauli said it’s a story about a young girl who has her magical awakening in a country where having magic is deadly and dangerous.

“The core theme of this story is that even though we may be afraid to own and use our magic, denying it leaves us more vulnerable.

“As black people, the world seems to discourage us from being ourselves and yet it is being ourselves that puts us on our path of destiny,” she said.

“Sola” is said to be innovative, unusual and contemporary and for that reason Mlauli decided that crowdfunding would be her best opportunity to bring “Sola” to life.

“My intuition told me that I would be better off crowdfunding instead of pitching early. I didn’t want to lose my right to produce or even become a showrunner.

“For Hollywood to let you be a showrunner, you have to have money or experience. I had neither. What I did and do have, is talent, discipline and heart for this story,” she said.

She said audiences can look forward to a dynamic, and exciting show.

“We have wild, funny, sassy characters who really go through a lot to master the magic that lives within them.

“We hope audiences connect to them, see themselves in them, project onto them, all of that.

“This is new, fresh and exciting, and I pray it awakens the same feelings in our audience.

“We want to energetically break out of these oppressive structures we live in. What better way than through entertainment,” said Mlauli.

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