I saved this review specifically for Black HIsory Month because it covers a period in African history that most African-Americans are unaware of. It’s the story of Nigeria’s Atlanta ’96 Olympic Gold Medal winners Chioma Ajunwa, Kanu Nwankwo and Austin Jay Jay Okocha. The book was commissioned by the UK-based non-governmental organization Community Sport and Educational Development (CSED) program as part of their literacy program, aimed at getting young readers interested in reading through sports. The current generation of Nigerians have never seen their athletes climbing the Olympic podium and this standalone comic serves as “edutainment” of sorts.
There is much more pressure in other countries such as Nigeria to win on the world stage in events such as the Olympics and the 65 athletes that represented Nigeria at the Atlanta Olympic Games were deemed by many to be fighting a lost cause. I think what is interesting is the authors’ depiction of Nigeria during the Achaba era and their view of the dictatorship at the time. Not only did the athletes have the pressure of trying to win a medal but the also had to deal with the realities of hunger and mass unemployment.
This all ages graphic novel is different from what I usually review because it is not a comic book in wide circulation nor is it available for purchase. However, it can be downloaded for fro from the CED website here. I decided to review this comic during Black History Month here in the US for two reasons: First, many African-American children also don’t see many black faces standing on the podium and often have (media-fueled) misconceptions of Africa as a whole. Secondly, I wanted my readers who might use comics in the classroom to have access to a story that many here don’t know about. I was a fan of Olasunkanmi’s artwork on E.X.O. Legend of Wale Williams so it was no surprise the linework is clean and the bodywork is executed well. The colors are vibrant and primary and would definitely hold a child’s attention even though some of the light sources are a bit off. The athletes’ actions are easy to follow but I did find the font changes in the speech bubbles a bit distracting. However, since this is a non-profit funded project I believe the artist and letterer took some liberties with this work as opposed to adhering to Western comic book standards. Overall I think this is a well-written story that even most adults in the West are not aware of. This would be an excellent story to add to an AfAm studies class or to share with children who are just learning about Africa and it’s leaders and athletes for the first time.
NIGERIAN GOLDEN LEGENDS
Writer: Cornelius Ehimiaghe and Akinboye Olasunkanmi
Penciler: Akinboye Olasunkanmi
Inker: Akinboye Olasunkanmi
Colorist: Waliu Edu and Raphael Kazeem
Format 40 pages