Work in progress: comics journalism about public authority in Africa

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One of the projects we’re currently working on is a series of comics on public authority in Africa, commissioned by the Africa Centre of the London School of Economics. The comics are based on field research in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone and South Sudan. We are currently in the storyboarding phase, where the artists have made rough drafts of the story to get a feel for the story flow and the visuals.

We try to make the comics as authentic as possible, working close with the researchers (who know the subject matter intimately), using a lot of reference photographs, and trying to incorporate as much of actual dialogue from the field research as we can. Although at first glance the topic of public authority can seem a bit dry, the stories we are trying to tell are fascinating.

One narrative is about vigilante justice in Uganda. A village is plagued by crime and has no funds to set up a police presence; the local council enlist a group of youths to patrol the streets and things go downhill from there…

Vigilate justice- sotyboardStoryboard fragment of ‘Vigilantes: security or insecurity?’ – Story by Rebecca Tapscott, art by Victor Ndula

Another narrative takes place in Palabek Refugee Settlement, also in Uganda. Here, a woman is accused of witchcraft. The authorities in the camp fail to take adequate action; violence ensues as the community feels they have to take matters into their own hands.

Poisoning in Palabek - storyboard

Storyboard fragment of ‘A poisoning in Palabek’ – Story by Ryan Joseph O’Byrne, art by Charity Atukunda

Other narratives that are currently worked on deal with the formal and informal economy in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis and the precarious situation of people living next to Virunga National Park in DRC. The full series will be six comics of eight pages each, which will be published on Cartoon Movement later this year and early next year.



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