A lesson with a spoonful of sugar

Mother and daughter go on a diabetes crusade

A mother and daughter have teamed up to educate South Africa and the rest of the world about diabetes through animated films.

Kabelo Maaka and her mother Dr Tshepo Maaka’s  first dramedy is called 3 Teaspoons of Sugar and has been screened at film festivals, including at the Africa Rising International Film Festival in 2019 and Lagos International Festival of Animation 2020, where it made it to the semi final stage.

It is the first short film under their company, Cabblow Studios. Tshepo says the hand-drawn animation works because it appeals to all health literacy levels. It uses visuals to simplify complex topics, processes and procedures.

“It brings to life things we have not seen or those that we can only imagine,” says Kabelo. The dramedy had its world premiere on World Diabetes Day in November last year. “Our plan was to take the film on a countrywide tour combined with health screenings, but then COVID-19 happened and the plans were shelved. “We are sure that we will still do something post lockdown.”

Kabelo is the animator and illustrator and says in her final year of study, she stumbled on the new genre of animated documentaries.

She started using YouTube to create art and animation tutorials, adding that she is determined to make sure that her work becomes a game changer by cultivating a unique voice that contributes meaningfully to the animation conversation in South Africa and internationally.

Tshepo runs an obstetrical anaesthetic practice at Sunninghill and Waterfall hospitals in Gauteng.

She is the co-director on the film and explains that she was always looking for ways to educate people about medical conditions but didn’t know that animation would be the way to do it.

“I was pushed by God into working in animation. It was never my plan or my intent. I woke up to an idea to work with my daughter when she was first looking at what strategy to follow for animation and, voila, we have our very first medical animation film,” says Tshepo.

Kabelo adds that they were inspired by their own family members living with the condition.

“The film, 3 Teaspoons of Sugar, is a symbolic representation of women in my own family – my great grandmother Lala, my grandmother Mama K, and my aunt The Sue.

“We used real-life voices of Mama K, The Sue and other additional characters in the film. When it was time to create this  film, I saw it fit to turn it into an animated docu-drama while also keeping it true to the medical side of things.”

Tshepo explains that diabetes is listed by the World Health Organisation as one of the conditions that can contribute to the severity of COVID-19.

“Those who are diabetic need to ensure that their management of the disease is better controlled to avoid complications. For those who live with diabetic family members, it is important that they take precautions to ensure that their family members are shielded from the disease.

“Diabetes affects about 4.7-million people in SA. Diabetes kills more people than TB, HIV and malaria combined, 12.7% of adults in SA had diabetes in 2019 as compared to 5.4% in 2017 – a 137% jump.

Continues Tshepo: “According to the International Diabetes Federation, diabetes will be the leading cause of death in South Africa in 2040, according to Lancet Journal. Indians are affected most, followed by Africans. It is because of genetics, diet and lifestyle choices.”

The film is available on Vimeo on Demand.

“We are negotiating to have it screened on various streaming platforms. You might also see it in a doctor’s waiting room soon,” concludes Kabelo.


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