Bino & Fino
How do you imagine Africa? For those who strive to be connected to African Diasporic art, history and culture, the answer is rich and complex. Yet, for many whose knowledge rests on mainstream media and educational outlets, the narratives are unfortunately skewed, even non-existent. The very idea of modern Africa seems paradoxical. That is to say, Africa has become an “other” and oppositional to the modern Euro-American west. In juxtaposing Africa and the west, dichotomies develop: us versus them, modern versus not modern and civilized versus savage. Hence, not only is Africa seen as lacking modernity and culture, but it is inherently different. This systematically skewed portrayal of Africa as pre-modern, backward, even lacking existence is accessed at a young age. Grade school textbooks either focus solely on ancient civilizations or overlook the continent all together. Many families have expressed frustration in locating multi-faceted black character representations for their children.
Bino and Fino disrupts these notions all together. Created by a Nigerian cartoonist Adamu Waziri, Bino and Fino follows two siblings as they learn about Nigerian Independence Day, healthy eating, girl empowerment and other exciting themes. All in all, the show innovatively broadens our perceptions of life in Africa and teaches children about African history, languages and culture. Interestingly, it was, in part, the children’s responses that made me realize how important and noteworthy this show truly is. Even though the cartoon is distinctly Nigerian, the children, who come from all over the Bay Area to MoAD, have expressed an overwhelmingly positive response and often identify with the characters. Despite our preconceived notions of Africa as “Other,” the children, in their bluntness, find far more similarities than differences. One child expressed the shows importance perfectly: “Bino and Fino is like Dora the Explorer for us!”
For some, it is easy to forget about a place that has historically been denied representation. Yet, in watching the children react to Bino and Fino at MoAD, it is evident how necessary it is to continue the creation and circulation of media forms such as this. Seeking to foster a multifaceted understanding of the history, art, and cultural richness of those of African descent, MoAD is the only organization in the country screening the cartoon. While mainstream outlets for learning about Africa are limited, Bino and Fino is an excellent way to introduce children to a richer and well-rounded understanding of African art, history, language, and culture.