A conversation with comic artist Chris Mafigiri
“Comics tell a side of story that pictures cannot do extensively”
Chris Mafigiri Mugarura is a professional comic artist living in Kampala. He has been a comic artist since his childhood but studied Journalism at Uganda Christian University, Mukono. In 2013, he won the comic book competition organized by the Goethe Zentrum Kampala/ Uganda German Cultural Society. This led to his publishing the book, Children of War that was recently launched at the Cultural offices in Kamwokya, Kampala.
Startjournal had a Q& A with him; asking him about his latest book and how Comics influence other art forms.
Sj: Tell us about your recently launched comic book, Children of War?
CM:The book Children of War is a cross genre comic book, adventure, futuristic and political history. It is a fascinating story that takes you through an ideological time of Africa’s unification, the characters that are the axis of this unification and their lives. It is a story I hope to turn into a graphic novel sometime.
Sj: Is this the first project? If not what are the other projects under your name?
CM: I have done quite a number of comics because this has been a passion and a hobby for a while now. Other projects I have worked on include:
i/ Jet. Is about a local superhero here in Kampala that stops crime and has a special skill set. This is yet to be published.
Ii/Venom. A Spider-Man parody based in Kampala. The hero in the book is bitten by a venomous radioactive snake and develops “powers “. However, the idea was not well received by publishers and it has never been published.
iii/ Rain. A pure action and martial arts comic about a former special forces soldier that goes into the body guard business and finds his commanding officer in trouble with the mafia and has to take retribution for what was done to the CO (read: Commander in Chief). Not yet published
iv/. Tekezessassi (literally meaning “kicks of bullets”) is martial arts comic based on a kick boxers life from childhood on the streets to taking on world class kick boxers. There are two issues of this book already. One is self published the other is not.
v/. Children of war. An action- adventure comic with a futuristic themed story based in a post- unified Africa. The central characters are twins (from an ancient royal blood line) rising up from a humble background and constantly running for their lives to taking over the biggest Empire Africa has ever seen. Volume one has been published.
Sj: Not many artists on the continent are doing comics, save for cartoonists employed by media houses. Why did you choose doing comics?
CM: I once worked in a newspaper as a cartoonist but the only reason they employed me was because of my comic book work that I had been doing long before that. I don’t really think about it because I love doing it and don’t look at it as work. It is a hobby or something to get my mind off things. It’s just recently that I was convinced to merge the passion element with the commercial.
Sj: What can comics do that other art forms cannot do in context of the local art scene?
CM: I guess comics tell a side of a story that pictures cannot tell extensively. It is also pure art and can push a story to the limits. They say a picture can tell a thousand words; what about many pictures?
Sj: The comic industry is still nascent on the continent unlike in Europe or America. Do you think this is a good advantage for African comic artists to create their own voice and style, rather than replicate what is already there?
CM: Yes. It is a good advantage for comic artists on the continent. Although we get a lot of inspiration from Japanese and the Europeans who are far ahead in this art form, we can create our own voice and style. My experience is that publishers are often looking for something original and unique. I found out this when many publishing houses were turning down by work because the characters were very much identical to Western comic characters like Super- Man, Spider-Man and Star-Wars. It was not until I became original with my story that I was published.
Sj: What are some of the themes that often stand out in your work?
CM: Well, I would say some of the constant themes have been Action, Adventure, Fantasy, and a bit of humor.
Sj: What challenges are there that impede creating a viable comic industry locally?
CM: The major challenges are the in the circulation of the comics, the number of distribution points and the remittances of monies. This I think is the commerce part that is the toughest. The market is already there but we need support in terms of marketing and distribution.
Sj: How would you describe your style? Is it cartooning or sequential Narrative?
CM: It is more of a sequential narrative. I think cartooning is more in the line of animation. Mine is more of story boarding and narration.
Sj: Where do you see yourself in the next five to ten years?
CM: I hope to be a graphic novelist. I hope to be the first to do this. I’m already working on something along that line.
Images are courtesy of Chris Mafigiri Mugarura