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Willy Kanga: “People Think I Smoke Weed Because of My Cartoon Characters, but I’ve Never Smoked Before”

Willy Kanga
Willy Kanga

Willy Kanga: “People Think I Smoke Weed Because of My Cartoon Characters, but I’ve Never Smoked Before”

Today, we host Williams Etombi, aka Willy Kanga, on The Big Showcase. Willy Kanga is an animator, an architect, a skit maker and the founder of Willy Kanga Face, a merch brand. Willy Kanga has been into art since he was 12. He took that interest further when he started sketching charcoal pencil artworks, and in the first year of his postgraduate programme, he moved to animation.

For Willy Kanga, switching to animation was best because he could merge his architectural and design principles with his traditional art talent. His animation style, which uses lines with minimal details in sight, is called minimalism. Willy Kanga has worked with several brands, including those in the automobile, cryptocurrency, and logistics sectors.

With a growing audience of 140 thousand followers on Instagram and more on TikTok, Willy Kanga has cracked the social media content creation game. In this showcase, he shares not only his animation career journey but also his social media growth strategies.

Who Exactly is Willy Kanga?

We know Willy Kanga the animator and funny guy, but who is he when the camera is off? Willy Kanga shares some common misconceptions that most people have about him.

“I don’t take in negative energy, so I hardly notice misconceptions. However, one misconception people have about me is that I’m snobbish because I don’t reply to messages on time. They think I’m ignoring them, but I’m not. It’s just that they don’t understand the sacrifices that come with being a social media influencer. Not only that but also the fact that I’m not just any influencer but an animation influencer. Animation takes time, so I’m usually on my laptop. And when I’m working, I shun everything else until I finish that particular animation project.”

Influencers and celebrities keep their lives and real personalities off the gram for different reasons. Willy Kanga shares another misconception that many would argue is true.  

“Another misconception is that I smoke or take hard substances because of how I portray my cartoon characters. But I’ve never smoked weed in my life. While I know and draw my cartoon inspiration from people who smoke, I’ve never wanted to do the same.”

Willy Kanga is quite an interesting person, and he admits that only a few people genuinely know him because he does the opposite of who people think he is.

“As an ambivert and someone who started with skit making, I make it my focal point to mostly present to my audience the opposite of my dominant personalities just to draw them in. I’ve also discovered that many content creators act ‘mad’ and extroversive online, but are very different offline, so I know I’m not alone in that category.”

Standing Out With a New Brand of Animation

To elaborate on his mention of skit making, Willy Kanga shares a part of his content creation journey and why he decided to start skit animation.

“I started with skit making about five years ago and picked up skit animation three years ago. It felt like something clicked once I started making animated skits. I couldn’t drop it because it made more sense than ordinary skit-making. Before I even started making skits, I was a traditional artist who could sketch and paint. As such, skit animation was the sweet point between traditional art and skit-making. I was happy to have the best of both worlds. Additionally, I wanted to do something different from other skit makers, and skit animation felt rare because nobody else was doing it in Nigeria when I started. And that became my brand’s unique selling point. Since my first animated skit, which got up to 60,000 views on Tik Tok, I’ve always had high engagement on my pages.”

Willy Kanga continues with why he chose animation over skit-making and traditional art.

“I chose animation over skit making and traditional art because it’s a unique skill that allows for originality. As a skit animator, I’m both a content creator and a conventional artist. For me, that still qualifies as creating art. At a point in my skit-making career, I also noticed that the skit-making space was overcrowded and didn’t give much room for people to shine properly. But in the animation space, it’s not easy to steal another person’s animated work.“

Every creative has subject matters they choose to focus on, and Willy Kanga shares a few of the themes he spotlights with his work.

“Most of my work is focused on politics as my way of creating awareness about political injustices and ways of improving living standards in Nigeria. Another common theme in my work is dark humour, another unique lead magnet for my brand.”

Willy Kanga, the Minister of ‘Vawulence’

Content creation on social media can be tricky, especially when you consider the role algorithms play in putting you before your audience. Willy Kanga shares why he isn’t concerned that his dark-humoured animated skits would backfire.

“Only about one percent of your online followers deliberately seek out your content, and your content is automatically visible to only a fraction of that percentage. The rest need a boost to view and engage with your content. So a major objective that my dark humour posts achieve is to get people to engage with the posts – good or bad, and to trick the social media algorithm into seeing such posts as highly interesting. That way, I’m able to reach my audience more.”

If you’re familiar with internet slang, especially among the Nigerian Twitter audience, you’d have heard or used the term ‘vawulence’, meaning violence. Although laidback offline, Willy Kanga is the vawulence king online.

“Another way I trick the algorithm is by starting controversial conversations with my animations just to get the algorithm to direct people to engage with my posts. For example, I love both Ronaldo and Messi. In fact, I love Rolando more than Messi, but I make posts that bash Ronaldo because it will cause ‘vawulence’. Lol.”

You don’t need to adopt Willy Kanga’s style of getting the algorithm to work in your favour, but you can take a cue from it.

Collaboration and Friendship for Career Growth

Scrolling through Willy Kanga’s Instagram page, you’ll notice several collaborations with other brands and animators. Willy explains why he collaborates a lot.

“Imagine getting to collaborate with a celebrity like Davido. Your career will experience an instant boost. So, I basically collaborate to expand my following and engagement with my content.”

It can be challenging to identify who your true friends are when you are in a highly competitive environment like social media. However, Willy Kanga has leveraged his genuine friendship with Heelarious Architect to stay consistent and creative on social media.

“I’m very selective regarding friendships because there’s so much backstabbing in the entertainment industry. But I have a rare and mutually beneficial friendship with Heelarious. He inspires my boldness and helps me with the characters I develop for my skits. I also share my creativity with him. We rub off on each other to improve our careers.”

These collaborations and consistently showing up online have helped Willy Kanga secure partnerships with established and growing brands. Willy shares how these deals happen.

“I’ve worked with some brands, including Trap Music, Craze Music, Redolox Logistics, and Cab Me, and most times, they just send me a DM to partner with them.”

This straightforward response shows that it pays to be consistent and diligent with your craft.

Willy Kanga the Student and Social Entrepreneur

Willy Kanga studied architecture, a course that was difficult enough without adding animation to the mix. Willy admits that it wasn’t easy.

“Combining my content creation and animation with my undergraduate and postgraduate education was hectic.”

Still on challenges and combining his education and career, Willy shares how surviving that phase is now beneficial.

“I only got through that period by God’s grace and sheer tenacity. That tenacity is what is helping me now. People think content creation is hard; animation is even harder because it can take weeks, if not months, to complete one animation video. But because I was able to put out animated skits as a student, I can now produce animated skits weekly.”

Willy Kanga throws in a bit of advice for anyone currently going through what he’s been through.

“Sometimes, you’ll face similar challenges – don’t complain, just face it and overcome.”

Willy shares another challenge he still faces.

“Another challenge is balancing producing promotional videos for the brands I partner with and satisfying my audience. I have to be careful and creative with how I promote businesses without losing the attention of my followers.”

What’s on the Horizon for Willy Kanga?

“I’m currently focusing on social media growth for my brand because so many reputable brands want to work with me. However, they need to see consistency in my growth, engagement and conversion before approaching me. So I want to work on growing my brand to become a leading influencing platform. This growth will also enable me to open a creative studio that will be a hub for skit animators and other creative people to rub minds together and grow their brands.”

Over the years, there’s been a decline in standup comedy shows in Nigeria because social media skit-making has taken over. As a social media content creator, Willy shares his views about standup comedy and virtual skit making.

“I don’t see myself doing standup comedy for a few reasons. One, social media skit making is taking the lead, and two, top skit makers bag up to 20 million naira influencing deals.”

Willy Kanga rounds up this showcase with a pertinent tip for content creators and animators struggling with putting out quality content regularly.

“No matter how foolish or underdeveloped it seems, put down any idea in your head. You can go back to your notes to turn the ideas into sweet content, but you need to have ideas to go back to in the first place. Another thing is to create thinking time because it’s in that moment that the universe rewards you with great ideas. If you don’t embrace solitude occasionally, you’ll lack ideas.”

Deborah Alfred

Deborah Alfred is a content writer, UX writer, and copywriter. A published author, she is the founder and community leader of WriterPreneurs' World, a writing community of over 2000 people. She employs simple yet effective writing and storytelling techniques that draw and capture her audience. Her moniker, Insightful Parrot, is a testament to her ability to see minute details that are usually oblivious to others and can improve any situation.

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