Netflix’s first original African animated series, Mama K’s Team 4, was created by Zambian writer Malenga Mulendema. She was one of eight winners of a pan-African talent search for the Triggerfish Story Lab initiative in 2015. The series was designed by Cameroonian artist Malcolm Wope, who drew visual inspiration from retro-1990s R&B and hip-hop girl groups for the look and feel of the series and its characters.
Mama K’s Team 4 tells the story of four teenaged girls living in the neo-futuristic African city of Lusaka, Zambia. They are recruited by a retired secret agent still committed to saving the world. The characters reflect heroes that African children can finally relate to.
Series creator Mulendema grew up watching cartoons on television that did not have heroes who looked like her or lived in a world that felt like her own. She was quoted by the Animation World Network as saying, “In creating a superhero show set in Lusaka, I hope to introduce the world to four strong African girls who save the day in their own fun and crazy way. Most importantly, I want to illustrate that anyone from anywhere can be a superhero.”
The series will tell the story of 4 teen girls living in the neo-futuristic African city of Lusaka, Zambia and trying to save the world. 🌍
— Netflix South Africa Hive 🐝 (@NetflixSA) April 16, 2019
Melissa Cobb, vice president of original animation at Netflix, added, “In addition to giving African writers a global platform on which to be heard, we are excited to present this powerful and entertaining new animated series that brings Malenga’s incredible and unique vision to life on Netflix. Mama K’s Team 4 has the potential to give a whole new generation of African children the opportunity to see themselves on screen in the powerful, aspirational characters they look up to.”
Triggerfish has become a powerhouse in South Africa’s animation industry. Its first two animated features, Adventures in Zambezia (2012) and Khumba (2013), are two of the five top-grossing South African movies of all time.
In addition, Triggerfish’s collaborations with the UK’s Magic Light Pictures have produced four multi-award-winning BBC Christmas adaptations, including Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes (2016), which was nominated for an Oscar and won more than 15 international awards, including an International Emmy. The studio is currently in production on its third animated feature, Seal Team.
The Animation Studio has also called for African female writers to lend their voices to its projects. Vanessa Ann Sinden, Triggerfish’s development producer, said, “Female writers from Africa who have had their work produced for either television, film or theatre can find out more about the Writers Lab and how to apply from the careers page on our website, www.triggerfish.com.”