Comic-Con Africa showcases homegrown superheroes

Africa’s biggest pop culture festival commenced this week, shining a spotlight on locally created superheroes, including a black knight combatting South Africa’s frequent power outages and a warrior drawing inspiration from the legendary Zulu king, Shaka.

Donning superhero capes and sci-fi attire, a multitude of individuals converged at a sprawling expo center in the southern part of Johannesburg, South Africa, on Friday, marking the commencement of Comic Con Africa, a multi-day event extending until Monday.

In its fourth instalment, the festival features a dedicated ‘Afro Geek’ pavilion, where comics that depict African heritage and society are prominently displayed.

“The cartoons we used to watch, particularly Tarzan, had this colonial mentality around Africans… it would be a character in Africa but the Africans would be invisible,” Trevor Ngwenya, an artist, told media. “It didn’t sit well with me”.

Ngwenya’s most recent endeavor involves creating a superhero inspired by King Shaka, a 19th-century leader who continues to be highly regarded for uniting a significant portion of the country as the Zulu nation.

Additional attractions within the ‘Afro Geek’ category encompass a paladin who combats the persistent power outages that have afflicted South Africa in recent times and a comic series inspired by African mythology.

Ethan Msithini, a 26-year-old animator who promotes the Kidwiz Inc series featuring the hero addressing power outages, said, “Seeing superheroes that I look like brings more of a relatability to me. It makes me want to read the comics a little more.”

The festival has received acclaim for providing opportunities to cosplayers in a country and continent where the cosplay industry is not as well-established as it is in more developed regions of the world.

“I just really love that people of colour are taking back ownership of certain things like fantasy and sci-fi,” said Abigail Backman-Daniels, a festivalgoer dressed as a Valkyrie from the Thor movie franchise.

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