Friday, June 12, 2015

Sneak Peek: Ancient Africa and China meet in our latest tale, "Tati"

(Page from short story, "Tati" written by Shawnee´ Gibbs & Shawnelle Gibbs, Art by JM Tolman)

There is something absolutely fascinating about ancient empires.

The people, the clothing, the architecture, the scenery, the bygone laws of governing and systems of order.

I'm sure everyone, at some point in their lives, has imagined themselves amidst the pyramids of ancient Egypt, exploring a hidden underground city, or as royalty in some for away civilization.

As writers, there's just something about bygone worlds that appeal to us, and we became particularly fascinated by an ancient African kingdom called Kush that existed in Sudan circa 1000 B.C to AD 350.

(Pyramids of Africa's Kush Kingdom)

We wondered about this little-known kingdom, which flourished along the Nile, alongside neighboring Egypt. Its ruins suggest a small empire that mirrored Egypt in its resources, beliefs and architecture.

(Art and artifacts of Sudan's Kush Empire)

Shawnelle and I are often so enamored with history and cultures that I'm sure one or both of us would've made pretty darn good archaeologists but alas, the artistic path beckoned. Yet the great thing about the arts is this: where else than in an actual archaeological dig site can you construct what ancient history might have looked like? Literature and comics helps us to bridge the gap between where ancient artifacts end and imagination begins.

As writers, Kush provides a treasure trove of ideas and the time period itself was ripe with other powerful and rising empires. At the same time in China, the Qin dynasty flourished under Qin Shi Huang, who commissioned the construction of the Great Wall of China, a remarkable architectural achievement which, like Africa's pyramids, has stood the test of time.

History often looks at people and cultures myopically, noting that this took place in this geographic region or that at this time period, without taking into consideration that people, the globe over, were constantly moving, in search of food and resources, or forced to migrate due to environmental occurrences like climate change and natural disasters.

This is a very large planet and our inquisitive ancestors were coming into contact with each other over the centuries; Through oceans, by foot, and on animals, they traveled this vast Earth taking with them pieces of themselves and sharing them with the world.

(Early character designs by JM Tolman)

We wondered what would happen if Tati, a small girl from the Kush Kingdom swept away by a magical tsunami, washed up at the neck of the Yellow River and onto the shores of Ancient China?

Interestingly enough, orphans tend to be a reoccurring theme in our work, partly because Shawnelle and I consider ourselves half orphan. So much like other themes including sci fi, nerdy female protagonists and twindom, it always finds a way of popping up.

We were lucky enough to have a pitch we wrote for Tati accepted by Graham Cracker Comic's Ladies Night Anthology's third volume, "How To Magic" (A Complete Guide). This is the third in a series of anthologies created by Chicago's famed GCC to promote independent women in comics.

We teamed again with the incomparable JM Tolman, the wonderful artist of our Fashion Forward Comic book series, and collaborated for the second year in a row with our fabulous editor, Lauren Burke, who oversaw our short comic, "Good Mourning, Jacob" for last year's volume.

To develop Tati's look, we researched photos of several North and East African tribes including the Dinka, the Omo, the Afar Tribe, the Hamar, Beja, Karrayyu and Toubou peoples. Here's just a sampling of some of the wonderful tribes who inspired us:

Photos of North and East African tribes)

The short story, "Tati" will be featured in the soon to be released Ladies Night Anthology (LNA's) "How to Magic" comic compilation, which you can find here!

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