Featured, Movies

Iwájú- Disney’s First Animation Series On Nigeria 

Nmesoma Okwudili


March 8, 2024

“Iwájú,” which translates to “the future” in the Yoruba language of West Africa, is a Disney+ series blending Afrofuturism and Nigerian culture. The plot, set in futuristic Lagos, unfolds in an environment where scientific achievements coexist with a robust Nigerian identity. “Iwájú” is recognized as a groundbreaking project that embraces innovation while simultaneously celebrating and conserving Nigeria’s rich cultural legacy, thanks to its intentional blend of contemporary elements with cultural authenticity.

After a century of independent productions, this marks Disney’s inaugural collaboration with an external studio. This collaboration brings forth ‘Iwaju,’ a joint project between a comic book studio, a pan-African entertainment corporation, and Kugali. Unlike continuing an existing film narrative, ‘Iwájú’ stands as an original work by Disney, distinguishing it from their regular offerings.

Iwájú, a Yoruba word meaning future, effectively conveys the sense of anticipation for an approaching period of time. It stands apart from other animated productions by taking inspiration from a real place instead of a made-up one.

The television series delves into themes like familial relationships, financial class dynamics, kidnapping threats, innocent curiosity, and more across its six episodes. The cast of ‘Iwaju’ includes prominent voices such as Nollywood figures Femi Branch, Bisola Aiyeola, and Shaffy Bello. Furthermore, the lineup features Ayo Okeniyi, Simisola Gbadamosi, Siji Soetan, British-Nigerian actress Weruche Opia, Obi Maduegbuna, Kehinde Bankole, Chioma Omeruah, Tosin Oshinaike, and Lala Akindoju, who also serves as the casting director.

“Iwájú” vividly portrays the socio-economic disparities in Lagos, delving into the dichotomy between the privileged and underprivileged. The storyline centers around Tola, a young girl from the affluent island, and Kole, a resourceful and well-intentioned boy navigating life’s challenges. Together, they uncover the perils and mysteries that are kept hidden in their disparate realms.

“Iwájú” presents a special challenge because, although it is about Nigeria, it cannot be viewed instantly in Nigeria because Disney+ is not available there. Nigerians are upset over this circumstance, wondering how a show about their lives can be made while they are unable to participate in it. The inability to access content representing the audience’s experiences becomes a poignant issue, emphasizing a sense of exclusion and dissatisfaction as they are virtually shut out from consuming it.

Nevertheless, the show brings to light aspects of Nigerian identity rarely discussed on an international stage. It praises the abilities of the diaspora and openly offers a positive outlook for the future of the nation. Storytelling about the history, present, and future prospects of Africa has a great deal of unrealized potential. In addition to providing entertaining, family-friendly experiences, Iwájú represents a positive step towards a bright and exciting future.

Disney’s venture into Nigerian storytelling is commendable, as Iwájú celebrates diverse dimensions of Nigerian identity, offering hope for the nation’s dynamic film industry. In addition to being a big step towards recognising the underrepresented stories on a worldwide scale, this project creates a wealth of unexplored storytelling opportunities regarding the rich past, present, and bright future of Africa.

The popularity of Iwájú suggests that more TV shows and films may be produced in the future, providing people all over the world with a realistic and complex representation of African cultures. Disney’s foray into Nigerian storytelling holds the promise of fostering a dynamic and diverse future for the film industry.


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