by Zaakirah Cassim Cachalia
Encouraging African pride and empowering children through positive words and life-affirming messages
Bringing to the literary scene a wealth of societal and cultural insight as well as experiential knowledge, Kopano Kalvyn More, along with Kyle Stokes, co-founded the publishing company UrbanToonsAfrica, an offshoot of UrbanToons Publishers (US) in 2018. Kopano is a social entrepreneur qualified and involved in the fields of agricultural development as well as finance. As a Pan Africanist scholar and proud TMALI alumni, Kopano possesses the nuanced intuition necessary to reconceptualising and expanding the literary canon.
Understanding that the early experiences of literature can have lifelong effects on a child, Kopano embarked on a mission to celebrate and encourage the African child underrepresented in children’s literature through positive representations. Purpose-driven and dynamic Kopano is working hard to provide alternative narratives containing positive affirmations and images of Africanness. He endeavours through his work to promote positivity and confidence whilst creating a safe space for African children to explore, love and appreciate their identities. Kyle and Kopano’s books are a must-read for young children of all races as they are valuable in supporting conversations on anti-racism and broadening the scope of understanding.
I Love My Crown
Among the books authored under UrbanToons is the best-selling, I Love My Natural Crown (Kyle Stokes), an empowering ode to the African child and a celebration of beauty and hair. I Love My Natural Crown is a timely and necessary book that challenges the often limiting and narrowly defined notions of beauty damaging and alienating to children. The tone is further conveyed through the book’s illustrations that depict and celebrate the African child’s beauty and value.
This book and others in the UrbanToonsAfrica collection empower young children, instilling in them the confidence and pride to be authentic and express themselves. They encourage children to author their narratives and definitions of African pride.
In an effort to increase accessibility as well as to promote the preservation of African languages, UrbanToonsAfrica has embarked on “Project54”, which aims to translate their book collection into 54 African languages. To date, translations into almost 20 indigenous African languages have been completed.
Kopano has also authored Conversation with My Elders (2019), a historical account of one of the oldest tribes in South Africa, the Bakwena Ba Mogopa. A later publication of Kopano’s is the 2015 Change is Changing: Write Your Story or Some Idiot Will.
Children and Black Lives Matter
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement Kopano is due to release a new book entitled Hey! African Child in September. He states that whilst children deserve so much more, societal turmoil affects them the most. He hopes that these books will assist children in navigating the African experience. These words of positivity and encouragement will be conducive to drawing children out from the messiness and complexities of racism.