'Super Sema' is Africa's first superhero, developed completely by the production company Kukua. It encourages young Black girls to break glass ceilings.
In a first for Africa, the Kenyan production company Kukua—led completely by a team of women—has launched the series Super Sema. The animated cartoon features Sema, aged 10, the continent's first superhero for little children. She uses her powers, which include creativity and innovation, to solve challenges in her community alongside her brother, named MB. The series has come to fruition with the backing of Hollywood powerhouse and Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o. The actress is a shareholder in the company and acts as its executive director. In addition to this, she is the voice actress for the character Mama Dunia, a wise source of knowledge for Sema and MB, CNN reports.
Clara Njeru, the head of production at Kukua, said in an interview with the news outlet, "African children need to see themselves represented on TV, on media. The series first premiered on International Women's Day earlier this year, in collaboration with YouTube Originals. Within the first four weeks, Super Sera had gathered 15 million views. According to Njeru, about half of the show's viewership comes from outside the continent of Africa. She added regarding Nyong'o's collaboration on the project, "She's been an inspiration to us." In many ways, the series is a reflection of Njeru's own journey through life, as a "technovator" herself.
Ever since she was a little girl, she has been developing creative ways to break through several glass ceilings, something she attributes to her upbringing. She Njeru, "My mom is a teacher, and I grew up in a family that really encouraged curiosity." Growing up, the production head did not have access to a computer at home. However, when she entered high school, her proficiency in math gave her the opportunity to work on computers at school. She was thus inspired to pursue computer science at university, where she stated she felt greater pressure to perform well as a woman studying STEM.
As per Njeru, her childhood played a major role in her success. "I had role models," she explained. "I think being brought up by my mother and my grandmother, who are very strong women... That really influenced who I've become." She joined the team at Kukua in the year 2016 in order to bring strong women role models to the screen. Kukua, an edutainment production house, has already broken barriers in the few short years it has been operating. In an industry that is dominated by White men, the women-led company has set the precedent for greater representation of Black, African women.
"When I was young, there was almost no animated content that was relatable to me," Njeru said. "We know now there's a big advantage for children to see themselves represented. There's very few role models who are Black and who are in science or technology, engineering, arts, and math, and there's also very few who are African. [At] Kukua, we believe that if you can see it, you can be it." Now, Super Sema is set for an action-packed season two, through which Njeru hopes the superhero will continue to show children that they can be and do anything.