Malenga Mulendema's childhood experiences serve as inspiration for the team of female writers to create the stories of the four young women spies in the Mama K's Team 4 series.
Netflix has teamed up with South Africa's Triggerfish animation studios and will soon be streaming its first African animation series, written by women, that features a team of Zambian girls as the heroes.
The series, Mama K's Team 4, gained attention in 2015 through the Triggerfish Animation Studio's Story Lab Initiative. The Cape Town-based Triggerfish devotes itself to re-creating the stories of African children and remains consistently producing content despite funding limitations.
Animators and writers throughout Africa were invited to submit their stories that pertained to the continent's culture. Creator Malenga Mulendema is now looking forward to seeing her story go from competition submission to animated series.
Mulendema says that while "cartoons were an exciting part of [her] childhood in Zambia," African representation was widely lacking in both local and international cartoons. She remembers writing and acting out her own storylines with friends as a young girl.
The writer's memories have translated into her current creative process, as she used her childhood experiences as inspiration for the team of female writers to create the stories of the four young women spies. Triggerfish invited writers from across the African continent to join the creative team.
Mulendema emphasized how important it is "to have strong female lead characters who are emotionally connected to their world and who can choose to change their world." The Zambian added that "selecting an all-female writing team was a natural fit, because who better to create and connect to those characters than females themselves?”
Mama K's Team 4 shows "four strong African girls who save the day in their own fun and crazy way," and takes place in a futuristic version of Lusaka, Zambia's capital.
Mulendema commissioned Malcolm Wope, an animator from Cameroon, to design the characters and the world they live in.
Both the characters and setting are breakthroughs for mainstream media, with the "potential to give a whole new generation of African children the opportunity to see themselves on-screen," Netflix's vice president of original animation, Melissa Cobb, said.