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Greenhills grad shares African life in kids’ books, cartoons

Ann Arbor may seem a long way from Kenya, but the efforts of Greenhills grad Kwame Nyong’o nevertheless helped bring to life an 8-year-old boy in a coastal Kenyan village–a boy with a craving for maandazi.
The pastry-like Kenyan confection forms the heart of one of Nyong’o’s two richly illustrated children’s books, A Tasty Maandazi. The 1990 Greenhills grads also is the author of I Love Ugali and Sukuma Wiki.

Ugali illustration

Nyong’o lived in Kenya for eight years before attending Greenhills. After college at Haverford–where he majored in fine arts–then further study in the arts at Melbourne University in Australia and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, he returned to Kenya. He, his wife Sonia, and their son Legend live in the suburbs of Nairobi, in a house called The Simba that they built together.
He recently founded an animation production company, Apes in Space, and began creating his series of children’s books. The books paint a positive and non-stereotypical vision of Africa and its culture, while also teaching important life lessons, such as the importance of hard work in attaining one’s goals.
Nyong’o knew that with his education and experience in America, he would have many creative opportunities working with original African content.
Animated series coverHe has been a key player in animation initiatives and productions in Kenya, such as UNESCO’s Africa Animated project, Tiger Aspect’s Tinga Tinga Tales children’s animated TV series, and feature films such as Nairobi Half Life.
His animation production company has won awards and recognition across Africa and the world for its short animated feature based on Maasai folklore, “The Legend of Ngong Hills.”
Saturday, April 24
Open to anyone ages 16 and up. Limited quantities available.
Greenhills is closed for mid-winter break and will return on Tuesday, Feb. 22.