Former Netflix executive Erik Barmack, who helped drive the streaming giant’s move to set up production operations around the world, is teaming up with New York-based Afro-French artist Nicholle Kobi for a high-concept animated African history anthology: Queens.
Produced by Barmack’s Wild Sheep Content, Queens will relate the stories of six real-life African queens, visiting points in time ranging over thousands of years and blending authentic history with magical elements. As well as being separated by time and geography, each story will be told with different visual and musical styles. The project is intended to reclaim history and source of inspiration for Black people around the world which has been denied to them by mainstream media and public education.
“One [of my daughters] will tell me: ‘I want a beautiful dress like one worn by a Black queen or princess.’ But she’d also ask me if there have really been any Black queens and princesses. I’d show her history books and she’d say — she’s 12 — that they were complicated. So I started to draw them for her,” Kobi said. “I draw for my daughters and all women … There are Black people on every continent. I want to tell them: ‘Your ancestors were queens, not only slaves.’ Now, when everybody wants to fight for their rights, we need this positive image.”
Episodes will cover Queen Amanirenas of Kush, who after the death of her soulmate Emperor Tergetas in battle, led her troops into battle and stopped the Roman Emperor’s press south from Egypt (1st century BCE); Nandi, mother of King Chaka Zulu (18th century); Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa, who fought against European colonialism (19th century); Queen Amina of Nigeria, who created crucial trade routes across Northern Africa (16th century); and Queen Makeba of Sheba, who told riddles to the biblical King Solomon (ca. 900 BCE).
The series leads intend to use storyboard artists based in France and have the animation produced in South Africa, using both writers with experience in the markets where the Queens stories are set and U.S. writers with animation expertise.
Kobi and Barmack are also in development on another animated series project for BET (part of ViacomCBS), La Femme Noire, described as a Sex and the City-style romance based on Kobi’s Instagram drawings inspired by Black women from around the world. Yvette Foy (First Wives Club) is writing.