Seyi Fajimi on serving up Pepe n’ Tomati
Andrew Seyi Fajimi, founder of Lagos-based animation outfit Folktail Studios, tells Content Nigeria about his participation in the recent Annecy festival in France, his project Pepe n’ Tomati, plans for future partnerships and what the future holds for African animation.
Please tell us about yourself and your animation studio.
I am an illustrator and animator from Nigeria. I was born and grew up in Ibadan and had always loved drawing for as long as I can remember. I also loved watching cartoons and animated shows, even today. I did my primary and secondary education in Ibadan. I then studied Fine & Applied Art at Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomoso. I started my professional career freelancing for various clients, then worked at the Trevent Company as the creative lead.
After my Youth Service, I came to Lagos and worked in advertising for a few years, after which I switched to working in animation. I worked at Basement Animation in various creative capacities, then started Folktail Studios in 2019. We are an animation studio that tells African and Afrocentric stories that appeal to both local and international audiences.
We have worked on animated commercials for brands and agencies over the years, but we have always wanted to create our own original stories, and that is what we started this year with our new series Pepe n’ Tomati.
How long have you been doing this and how has the animation journey been?
Professionally, I would say 10 to 15 years. We don’t really have any animation schools in Nigeria or courses for animation in our universities, so it has been a bit difficult learning and honing my skills over the years. Most animators in Nigeria are self-taught and learnt from places like YouTube.
My first animation was a political ad, which I did while in school. This year, I co-wrote and directed my first short film, titled Finding Jomijo. It’s a three-minute fun short story about a boy and girl. I can’t say any more about the project for now but look out for it in the next few weeks. It’s been quite the journey.
What was your experience like at the recently concluded Annecy animation festival?
It was great. A really good experience. I got to pitch our project, Pepe n’ Tomati, and the response was really good. I was also able to meet a lot of great people and make a lot of contacts as well. It was fun meeting some of the people behind all the great work we get to see from around the world.
Annecy is really beautiful. I didn’t have much time to explore and sight-see, but will definitely make out time to do that next time around.
Will there be future partnerships and collaborations coming from this festival?
Hopefully, yes. I had a few meetings with potential production and distribution partners. It was good and quite validating to meet people who were interested in Pepe n’ Tomati. We’re keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that something happens down the line.
Can you tell us about Pepe n’ Tomati and what other projects you and your team have worked on?
Pepe n’ Tomati is about two brothers. They are poor and their mother becomes ill, so they seek out fame and fortune. However, they instead become unlikely and reluctant heroes in an ancient battle to save the world. The project is a 2D semi-serialised story, with an over-arching storyline geared toward children between the ages of six and 11.
It’s a fun and epic fantasy story with lore that is inspired by Yoruba folklore and mythology. It also has a sub-text that focuses on class structures and socio-economic divides, but this is all presented in a fun way that is accessible to the audience.
As for other projects, there is Finding Jomijo, a film I directed earlier this year that was produced by the British Council in partnership with Basement Animation, with Kate O’Connor consulting. Apart from that, there are a bunch of projects that are in development at the moment. We have a lot in the works and will be unveiling some things before the end of the year, so keep an eye out.
What do you think is the future of animation in Africa?
The eyes of the world are on the African animation space now. We have a lot to prove, so there is a lot of work to be done, but the future is really bright. With the deals that are being signed and shows that are being picked up, it’s clear that the world is finally ready to hear our stories. It’s a really exciting time to be in the industry, and I can’t wait to see where we will be in the next three to five years.