Arts View

Sept 2023 – Nov 2023

Ngagne Demba Diaw

Ngagne Demba Diaw – Visual Artist & Designer

Dakar, Senegal

Ngagne Demba Diaw is a freelance ‘Storyboard Artist and Character Designer’. He was born and raised in Dakar, Senegal and has over 4 years of experience working in animation, gaming, live action and advertising.

Ngagne studied at IAM (Institut Africaine de Manage) in the technology department where he learned the basics of animation. After 2 years at IAM he continued his studies on the online platform Schoolism where he learned from industry professionals for over a year before starting his career as a children’s book illustrator.

 After being contacted by director Jonathon Kay to work as a storyboard artist on his movie “NAYA And The Golden Dolphin“, a role he accepted, as well as working in a local game studio in Dakar “Kayfogames” where he was as an Art Director for two years, he went on to embark on working on a freelance basis as a Storyboard Artist and Character Designer.

Ngagne is eager to learn from professionals from all over the world and he harbours a dream to help develop a solid animation industry in Africa so African Children can have cartoons with characters that represent them well.

AGN; In simple terms, what does a ‘Storyboard Artist and Character Designer actually do?

NDD; In terms of animation, it is the storyboard artist’s role to produce a series of rough sketches of the whole movie so that there is a rough visual representation of it. This enables the structure to be set out from start to finish in its bare bones. Character design as the words imply, is the job of representing characters in a very detailed way so that words on a page manifest visually.

It is very laborious and time consuming. It involves a lot of editing and changes before arriving at the final output.

AGN; You harbour a dream to help develop a solid animation industry in Africa, however, there are now a number of studios around the continent that are doing good work. What do you think is missing and hence why you harbour this dream?

NDD; In my country there is no major studio or school for animation. Even in countries on the continent where they have more facilities, they don’t produce much high quality content. That is why I harbour this dream.

AGN; Why have you chosen your current path in terms of the creative industries?

NDD; I have been passionate about drawing since I was a child. At school I was that kid who was always drawing. I love doing it and it doesn’t feel like working to me. I felt that if I pursue my passion as a job I would feel more fulfilled than if I pursued a job that my heart wasn’t really into.

AGN; What are the things you find most challenging as a freelancer?

NDD; It is a very competitive environment. There is so much good talent around so setting oneself apart from others is an on-going process. Effective networking is also a challenge as one has to keep on building links and connections that will serve one well sooner or later. Finally, finance/stability is a further challenge as at times there will be no work so one has to be able to manage during such periods.

AGN; If you could start over what would you do differently?

NDD; I would focus more on learning the basics. When I started out I didn’t spend enough time on the basics and was more preoccupied with the technical aspects of animation. I came to realise that having a solid foundation in storyboarding is fundamental to the craft. Had I realized this at the outset I would have saved myself a lot of time.

AGN; What is the highlight of your career or the piece of work you have created which you are most proud of to date and why?

NDD; One of the highlights would be when I had an idea financed by the French Institute in Dakar. Another highlight would be when I was contacted by a director in the USA to work on his movie; “NAYA And The Golden Dolphin“. These are two of the pinnacles of my career to date.

AGN; Your skill-set spans a number of areas and this in turn is reflected in the varied type of work you do. In terms of your artistic talent which type of work do you feel most strongly drawn to?

NDD; I have undertaken most roles in terms of producing an animated movie, however, storyboarding is the aspect I most feel passionate about. Storyboarding is akin to directing a movie and since I want to become a director, storyboarding holds further importance for me.


AGN; What advice would you give to youngsters thinking of doing what you do?

NDD; I would advise they take the time to learn the basics and to go on a journey of discovery to find out who they are as an artist. Finding your authentic self and style is very valuable. If you copy from one artist, that could be considered stealing but if you learn from many and add your own perspective, that becomes original.

 If you didn’t work as a creative what would you likely be doing instead?

NDD; I have absolutely no idea. I have always wanted to do what I am doing now. Actually, I now recall that initially I wanted to become an architect but I soon felt that was too boring and I moved on from there to animation and have never looked back.

AGN; What was your upbringing like and is there anyone you feel played a pivotal role while you were young in helping to shape you as a person?

NDD; My mother is the person I would say has been like a rock for me. Not all African parents are supportive of their children pursuing a career in the creative industries. My mother has always been supportive of my desire to become an artist. I would also acknowledge my teacher at art school who was very helpful in terms of guiding and helping me to learn and grow as an artist.

AGN; What is the greatest misconception people have about what you do?

NDD; People often think I’m playing when I’m drawing. They didn’t take me seriously at first and thought I could never make a solid career out of it or even make any money. But as time went by they saw me making money and travelling so they started to take what I do as a job but they still do not appear to have much regard for it. Thankfully my mum and also a brother are very understanding. That means a lot to me.

AGN; Which character attribute do you value most in people?

NDD; Honesty is the attribute I value most. I feel it is very important to be honest with oneself and those one engages with. To be able to meaningfully connect with someone it is important to know who they truly are.

AGN; What do you do to relax and unwind?

NDD; I meditate and play sport, especially gymnastics e.g. tumbling. I also like to socialize with friends and family. Occasionally I practice martial arts.

AGN; How would you describe your sense of humour?

NDD; My girlfriend says I only tell dad jokes. She says my sense of humour is weird. People say I have a good sense of humour. I’m inclined to believe them.

AGN; In terms of becoming a better version of yourself, what is the foremost thing you would like to change?

NDD; I would like to procrastinate less and be more organized and patient at times.

AGN; How would you describe your personality?

NDD; I guess I am a calm person. People say I’m kind. I am quite open but I can be shy too.

AGN; Is there anything else you would like to add?

NDD; Watch this space!

Previous ‘Arts View’ interviews are available here; archive

Ri Iyovwaye

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on behalf of African Global Networks (AGN) – Sept 2023