Taking care of the future now

tjil chats to international model and TV producer, Luis Munana, on the importance of celebrating children.

28 September 2018 | Art and Entertainment

Chubby faces, rolls of extra love, straightforward honesty and curiosity are some of the qualities which portray children.

Children are the epitome of affection and the leaders of tomorrow. We should not, on top of this, forget that they are people before anything else and their lives need to be valued. “The one thing all children have in common is their rights. Every child has the right to survive and thrive, to be educated, to be free from violence and abuse, to participate and to be heard,” once said the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

Today, children across Namibia will be celebrating their day under the theme 'No child shall be left behind for Namibia's development'. The Day of the Namibian Child gives us another chance to re-dedicate ourselves to the cause of children and protect and promote their rights to a wider audience.

The importance of this day is to communicate to children that they are valued, loved and most importantly, that they matter.

A local celebrity who has a soft spot for children, Luis Munana, created an animated series that encompasses all aspects of early childhood development - amongst others. His dream from the beginning was to create something magical that each Namibian child could enjoy despite their background. Munana said that he never thought Waka Waka Moo would get as far as it has. Waka in this context means 'go on' and if one was to translate its meaning; it means “go on or continue doing and chasing your dreams”.

“I was in grade 3 and we watched Lion King. It sticks with me because even today I still remember the emotions I went through and that was years ago. I then decided that I wanted to create something so powerful that a child can watch it and be able to say 'ten years ago I watched Waka Waka Moo on TV, their crew even came to my school and put on a puppet show for us'. That's what keeps me going,” he said.

The cartoon series is a campaign incorporating songs, dance, storytelling, history, science and preserving culture in Rukwangali, Afrikaans, Oshiwambo, Otjiherero, Damara/Nama, Silozi, Tswana, Dutch and English. There are segments on the show that are only in cartoon form and then there are segments which involve child hosts interacting with real life hand puppets.

The aim, according to Munana is to preserve Namibian stories by making them relevant, fun and exciting. Munana has shot over 26 episodes thus far and he wants to ensure that every Namibian child sees one episode, at least.

“We are becoming too westernised and I believe that one needs to know where you come from. There are certain values, traditions and teachings that we need to carry to the next generations for them not to be lost. Once you lose things like language, your culture follows and you are likely to have an identity crisis. Waka Waka Moo tries to preserve some of the teachings through the stories told,” he said.

The model told tjil the reception to the series, which is a year and a month old, is overwhelming. There are countless occasions where he has been stopped in shopping malls by children and parents who bare the same sentiments of appreciation.

“They tell me not to stop and that's when I realised that what I am doing is actually important. It's like I have opened a Pandora's Box and I can't put things back in there,” he said.

Today, Waka Waka Moo crew travels countrywide to schools where they put on a puppet show for the children. Munana says his team receives requests on a daily basis from school teachers, both government and private schools, to have the crew perform at their schools.

Munana says not a lot is being done for Namibian children and efforts will be required from everyone to assure a safe future for them. He believes there is very little being done for children to explore their talents and creativity.

“Many government schools are removing artistic subjects due to cost cutting and that's not fair. Things like creative writing competitions and arts subjects are also important because there are career fields that require that knowledge,” he said.

Munana also spoke about the increase in child abuse. “Back then, the whole community was responsible for raising children. Today things have changed and each one is on their own. What happened to that neighbourly love? We need to educate the children not to speak to strangers, not go out at night. Giving credit where its due is how there is free education and that is effort put in by the government because now, every child can go to school,” he said.

Munana said he appreciates the support he has been getting both from the government and corporate world for his cartoon show. He says there would be no success story if many of them had not come on board. He plans on one day being able to create a Waka Waka Moo movie that will be consumed worldwide and not just in Namibia.

“My trips have been funded, I was given puppet material and my mascots from government entities and Sugar King has been very, very helpful,” he concluded.

June Shimuoshili

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