Last year was a big one for the Catalyst Press/Story Press Africa team. We funded our first Kickstarter project (thank you!), and released the very first book in our African Graphic Novel Series—Shaka Rising: A Legend of the Warrior Prince. It went well. OK, let’s say it went very well. We’re proud of how Shaka Rising was represented in the media. It was named an Honor Book by the Children's Africana Book Awards, and shortlisted for a NOMMO award by the African Speculative Fiction Society. It was praised in The Wall Street Journal, Kirkus, The Midwest Book Review, School Library Journal and Booklist; Luke Molver, the book’s author/illustrator, has been featured in several South African media outlets including Beautiful News South Africa and The Sowetan; Luke signed copies and swag at Comic Con Africa in Johannesburg, the first ever comic con in South Africa; and we’ve heard from educators and students who’ve shared with us the impact the book has had on them and their schools. It has been an incredible year.
But our story—and Shaka’s—is just getting started.
This year, we are publishing King Shaka: Zulu Legend, the sequel to Shaka Rising and the second in the African Graphic Novel Series.
King Shaka: Zulu Legend—in which Shaka faces intrigue and betrayal from both within and without his ranks of trusted advisers, the British arrive on the shores of the Indian Ocean, Shaka’s skills in foreign diplomacy face a steep learning curve, and Shaka’s own brothers conspire against him.
This year, we want to expand our efforts to get Story Press Africa’s books in as many hands as possible, which is why we’re doing another Kickstarter. Not only will the money raised go toward the costs of producing King Shaka: Zulu Legend, but we are launching our buy one-give one initiative, which will get Shaka Rising and King Shaka to even more young readers—especially readers in Africa.
Bringing stories of great African lives and events to a global audience is at the core of our mission. We’ve been thrilled by the response to Shaka Rising, and can’t wait for readers to experience Shaka’s continuing story. More than that, we’re excited about the future of Story Press Africa, and the many ways that we can continue to support and amplify African stories, artists, and histories.
Bringing African Stories to Young Readers
The African Graphic Novel Series uses the power of stories and sequential art to engage young adult audiences with African knowledge. We want to bring African histories, events, heroes, and knowledge to as wide an audience as possible. These are the people that have made not just African history, but in many cases world history, and their stories deserve to be told.
In our first book, Shaka Rising, we introduced readers to Shaka, the legendary African leader and his ascent to power in one of southern Africa’s most turbulent periods. In our newest release, King Shaka: Zulu Legend, we continue his powerful story from his rise to king to his death. In the future, we will release more titles in the series that explore the lives of overlooked or often misrepresented African lives, leaders, and events.
These books are published under our imprint Story Press Africa, a collaboration between Catalyst Press and Jive Media Africa. Story Press Africa has a rigorous editorial process to ensure that stories are based in accurate historical and social contexts, whether presented as fiction or non-fiction.
How You Can Help
We’ve been thrilled with the response to Shaka Rising, and we want to not only continue publishing future volumes in our African Graphic Novel Series, but we want to make sure that we get those books to the readers who need them most. Your contribution to Story Press Africa will help us to continue to do just that. With Kickstarter funding, we'll be able to cover part of the costs of printing as well as develop our educational outreach plan to get this book in the hands of kids and educators alike. This will enable us to find and fund more artists for future projects in the series. Your support not only gets you the finest Catalyst Press/Story Press Africa goodies around (including getting your copy of King Shaka before it hits stores), but also creates new book lovers around the globe.
We will distribute donated copies, purchased through Kickstarter, through READ Educational Trust. We are also in the process of creating relationships with additional southern African literacy non-profits for further and widespread distribution.
These two graphic novels, the first in the African Graphic Novel series, explore the rise to power of a young prince who must consolidate a new kingdom through warfare, mediation and political alliances to defend his people first against the expanding slave trade and then, second, to engage diplomatically with British explorers and political emissaries to protect his kingdom from colonial domination. Shaka Rising introduced readers to Shaka, a legendary African leader and his ascent to power in one of southern Africa’s most turbulent periods. King Shaka: Zulu Legend continues his powerful story. Now the king of the southern chiefdoms, Shaka must defend his throne against threats from home and abroad.
The choice to illuminate Shaka’s story first in the series was natural for the Catalyst-Jive team of Story Press Africa. Jive Media Africa is located in Pietermaritzburg, in KwaZulu-Natal, the heart of the kingdom Shaka established and home to many modern-day Zulu people. Jessica (publisher at Catalyst) took three years of Zulu in graduate school, lived with a Zulu family in the region where Shaka reigned, and wrote a graduate-level research paper on Shaka.
South African author/illustrator Luke W. Molver is the co-author/illustrator, along with Mason O’Connor, of the first installment, and the author/illustrator of the second. He studied Fine Art and Graphic Design at the Durban University of Technology and works as a freelance illustrator and comic book creator in Durban, South Africa. In an interview with Beautiful News South Africa, Molver explains how much he learned in the course of writing the two books: “Most of that stuff we learned in school is untrue and inaccurate. Shaka was not this fulcrum of brutality, he was this diplomatic leader.”
“We need to tell stories as much as we need to breathe,” Molver says. “Comic books, I believe, are the most powerful medium of communication and education.” And comics can be a gateway from reader to creator, he explains. “I would like the comic to educate children and inspire them to tell their own stories.”
The first volume of Shaka's story was published in January 2018. Later that month, we began work on King Shaka, which is set for release in October 2019. Like its predecessor, King Shaka will also serve as a teaching tool, and contains back-matter that includes historical context, character discussions, a glossary, and discussion questions. We envision these books working as well in a classroom as they do at home. The African Graphic Novel series is first and foremost an adventure tale, designed for young people to pick up and read because it’s an exciting story. But it’s also the perfect tool for introducing authentic African stories to your coursework or for a curious young reader in your life.
We aren’t stopping there! We want to make sure that kids—regardless of income—will be able to enjoy our books. This year, we’ll be strengthening our partnerships with South African and North American organizations to help provide books to readers-to-be through a buy-one-give-one program, beginning with READ Educational Trust. By choosing this option when you purchase a book from us, you’ll help give a book to a young reader, as well as support our ongoing mission of producing African stories for a global audience.
Catalyst Press is an independent publishing company based in California, U.S.A. We publish books that reveal the world from different perspectives, tilting or reversing our understanding of what’s real, true, necessary, or beautiful. While our initial publications are focused on books emerging from the African continent and about Africa, we hope to expand to include indigenous writers from around the globe, and we have currently rolled out a new science-based imprint, Powers Squared. We are committed to publishing work that exposes the truth and pursues justice and peace.
Jive Media Africa is a creative media agency, built on the belief that African knowledge can powerfully transform our continent and the world - provided it is shared. We work with top African researchers and professionals to showcase their awe-inspiring work, translating it into engaging and accessible communication products. We provide services in media, engagement and training, and we publish great African stories. We also reach the next generation of leaders and innovators in Africa through our youth engagement programmes Science Spaza and Hip Hop U.
Story Press Africa, a collaborative imprint between Catalyst Press (USA) and Jive Media Africa (South Africa), is a platform for sharing African knowledge. Through the medium of stories (including graphic novels and young adult and children’s literature), we work to make African knowledge accessible and available worldwide.
Risks and challenges
The risks and challenges for King Shaka and for the African Graphic Novel Series in general are this: that level of incredible art and research and fact-checking takes incredible time and resources, which requires a broader base of support. We can’t do this alone. We need your help. Your support helps us not only continue this pivotal and unique series, but allows us to make it available to kids who have less access to books.
We believe the African Graphic Novel Series is vital to our collective sense as a global community. It helps create understanding and empathy for one another, as well as for providing authentic and accurate historical heroes for children from the African diaspora around the world. We carry that same empathy and understanding into creating these books, which, in some ways, created its own set of challenges. In producing this series, we have carefully considered how to present accurate facts and truths about legendary figures in southern African history whose symbolic power may transcend the facts of his story—or whose mythology is greater than the facts—in ways that honor their importance to their communities. History—and especially contested history—can be controversial, and is often written through just one lens. We have strived to be both authentic and factual while deeply respectful of local understandings.
However, we’d like to turn “challenge” around on its head and present it here as a challenge to our supporters on Kickstarter and beyond. Our challenge—your challenge—is to recognize the importance of African stories and knowledge on the global stage. Our motto, African knowledge. African stories, Worldwide, is also our mission. We celebrate these stories, these heroes, and we want readers from all over the globe to celebrate them too.
For reasons of economy, young children growing up in South Africa often lack access to books featuring their OWN stories. We want your help to change that. We can only do our work with strong alliances and partnerships. So many people have become part of our community over the past year, and we thank every single one of you. Each of you, through your support, your kind messages, and, of course, your choosing to purchase Shaka Rising has helped bring Story Press Africa a little closer to being able to see our vision through. There are a lot of challenges in doing this work, but there are also so many rewards, and seeing books—our books—in the hands of readers is the biggest one. Thank you all for helping us keep doing the work we love!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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