While millions of South African children are terrified by the COVID-19 pandemic, an 11-year-old cartoonist and entrepreneur has used the extended lockdown to create a cartoon series educating his peers about the new coronavirus.
Eleven-year-old Jan Louwrens from Paarl, Western Cape has found a way to help children to beat the boredom while stuck indoors. His comic series tells children exactly what they need to do to outwit the virus.
“Children are worried about the virus and about going back to school. I wanted them to know that they will be looked after,” said Louwrens. The little boy and his mother, work on the comic every evening after his homework. He draws and dictates the story while Ronelle turns his imaginings into a readable format.
“I’m really enjoying lockdown,” Jan said. “I like that there isn’t someone telling me when I need to finish my work. After work, I design my robots. I have a new robot who lives on Mars – Marsmellow, he’s top-heavy and has two missiles on his wrists,” said Louwrens.
Louwrens began drawing robots when he was three, but at nine he was frustrated because he didn’t like playing sports at school. So, when he was approached by the agriculture news website Food for Mzansi to come up with an educational comic strip to teach kids about the virus, he grabbed the opportunity.
“He finds it difficult to concentrate at school and doesn’t like it much. I thought to give him something to be excited about we would create comics after his work was finished. He was already drawing robots, but he’s really interested in the way things fit together. He would draw the robots in pieces and explain how the pieces could create different robots – he calls it his menu or recipe”, his mother said.
The new comic is translated into all 11 official languages and uploaded onto the website each week. Food for Mzansi Co-founder, Ivor Price said they wanted to fully understand children’s fears about the pandemic.
“It just made sense to team up with Jan, a young robot inventor and cartoonist who has already been making waves in the digital world. He is a gentle giant, and we love that he’s also mainstreaming nerdism. Kids often feel out of place in their schools because they are so sport-oriented,” said Price.
Louwrens family owns a marketing company which helps with the apparel business. “One day we turned some of his cartoons into T-shirts for family and suddenly everyone wanted one. That’s how the business, Baggo Stonetrip, began,” explained the mother. Louwrens draws and his images are then “treated”, a process where a designer makes the drawings more precise. Then the image is printed onto clothing.