Children in a secure environment in Africa grow up on a television diet of US, UK and Japanese programming. It is an invalidating experience when your stories are not the stories the world tells, as it is when you have to take a mental step down in quality when going from watching a foreign to a local production. Children watch endless representations of groups of children running around in the suburbs of Western cities. They get the message that what's in the West is what the world is.
Skin colour is not the primary concern. The focus is the environment and cultural background of stories, the myths and legends in the underground of our consciousness, the shared assumptions of artists, performers and viewers as imaginary creations are visually expressed.
At Mundu Mwara Studios, superheroes come from Lamu, Buruburu and Ongata Rongai. Visions of Heaven feature not harps and clouds but fertile farmland and herds of cattle. Kenyan children currently live in Western environments in their fantasy worlds. The idea is to introduce fantasy worlds that occur in the world outside their windows, imagined and brought to life by people who grew up in the same culture.
There is also an intention to subvert the academic nature of children's lives with the idea that the work of children is to play.
The programme the studio will be founded on is 52 episodes of a 10-minute children's short bringing to life Almasi. Almasi is an 8 year old girl, and her name means Diamond in Swahili, Kenya's national language. She lives in Nairobi, but several of her relatives work in the tourist industry, as a waiter, a driver, a cook, and she gets to visit them in the course of the series.
Almasi is like her name, bright and sparkling, a solutions person who acts without hesitation to solve problems. She is a dynamic and mischievous girl, not above using her powers for practical jokes but at heart a person with an unwavering moral sense. The character is being developed in consultation with a local media house to be relevant to low to middle income Kenyan viewers.
When the story begins she is at the coast with her cousins, whose parents work at a local resort, and the first environment we see her in is a mangrove forest. Here her adventures begin.
She meets a butterfly and picks up her talisman diamond, a piece of seaglass to everyone else. When she puts it in her hair she shrinks to 2 inches high and finds she can ride the butterfly.
She solves problems and has astonishing adventures with her magical skills. She goes home to her parents for the school term, and her life is now interspersed with fantastic adventures when she rides the butterfly. Her powers afford her a viewpoint invisible to everyone else. In the course of the 52 episodes she will visit several environments in East Africa - Lake Naivasha, Kakamega Forest, Lake Kivu or Lake Baringo and the Aberdares.