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Arabian/British manga starts here! Manga connecting two cultures 
- Hello Award Winners #21 AsiaAlfa

Enrico Croce Enrico Croce 16/10/2017 17 min read
  For a Lybian in the UK, MANGA speaks louder than WORDS! Her fist manga was made to say hello in another language, her latest manga was made to say hello to the world! Will the SMA-Community (the creators, the readers and the editors) say hello back to her? The editors surely do! Hello, AsiaAlfa!
  “At school, I managed to make friendships by drawing manga!”  
  1) How did you begin creating Manga? In Libya, I grew up watching very old-school anime by Nippon Animation such as “Future Boy Conan”, “Anne of Green Gables” and other series based on classic novels from the series “World Masterpiece Theater”. After moving to Scotland at the age of 8, I felt out of place due to both the culture and language barriers. The only way I managed to make friendships was after I started drawing manga at school. At the time, I thought I was showing them something from my culture as I had watched all those anime series in Arabic! 😂 I had no idea that the Japanese art format was available in books too, so I used to record the TV episodes on videotapes. When I wanted to draw something, I used to pause the tapes (and I’m sure many people can relate 😃) and then try to draw AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE, because the video only paused for 30 seconds before automatically un-pausing itself! Everything changed when, back in 1997, I found my first ever manga in a library in Scotland. The manga was called “Ironfist Chinmi” and was a total game changer in my life!
2) What is your working environment like? Are you an analogue or digital person? Any unique tools you use to draw? I mostly draw and ink by hand, then scan the drawings in and tone them digitally (because tones are SUPER EXPENSIVE and not really available in the UK)! I’m a lover of nibs and brush pens!

Asia’s workstation!

“I hope people will get a small introductory to my roots through my manga!”  
3) Anything the world should know about where you live? Interesting events/sights/foods/culture etc? Libya and the Arab world have a very different flavour compared with the UK. The food, culture and sights are uniquely different, a blend of African and Mediterranean. I find that many people don’t know much about our part of the world, and so, I hope they will get a small introductory glimpse of it through my works as I keep creating! ☺️ Almost in every entry of mine (“A Taste of Home” and “Cookie Powered”), I’ve tried to allude to my roots.

“Juha” – one of AsiaAlfa’s latest manga

  4) Popular comics/manga in your part of the world at this moment? Manga like “Naruto”, “Death Note” and “Hunter x Hunter” are famous in both the UK and Libya! Though in Arab countries, the strong tradition of old 80’s and 90’s classic anime series is still the bedrock of the art.   5) Are locally created comics/manga popular in your town? Do you know any local creators? I met up with Libyan manga and comic artists on my last visit, and I was blown away by the incredibly talented core they are growing there! Last year Libya also had its very first comic event called “Libya Comic Con”, so I’m hoping for an explosion in both interest and cultivation of talents! I know incredible creators like Abdullah Hadia, Mohammed Gajoum, the Habka collective… there are too many to mention!    
  “My entry is about my favourite Libyan cookies, and I made it… in just 48 hours!”    
6) How long did it take to create the entry? I was travelling at that time and went back home just 48 hours before the deadline.Then I woke up, regretting that I hadn’t managed to take part in SILENT MANGA AUDITION® that time. But I suddenly decided: “WHY THE HELL NOT? THERE IS STILL TIME!”. So, I worked for almost 48 hours continuously (you may notice the quality of the work dropping at the last few pages as exhaustion set in, 😂😂)!   7) Where did you find the inspiration for the entry? As far as inspiration goes, I pictured the cookies, then allowed myself just to draw, almost without any planning; page by page, instead of creating a name first like I usually do (because of time restriction!). 😓

“Cookie Powered” original drawings!

8) Is any part of the story, based on an experience of your own? Yes, the cookies! 😁 As an adult, I’ve obviously gone through things that remind me of home or people who love and care of me: food is always the best medicine… especially those cookies! Also, the grandma reminds of mine, with all the childhood feelings of freedom and joy she brings with her. 😍

The old Arabian tales in manga: “Tubbaakh”

  9) Are the “cookies” a Libyan kind? What are they called?  Those are the most standard authentic Libyan tea-cookies!! Libya went through a period of financial difficulty in the 80’s and 90’s where imports from outside were limited. So, there were no biscuits or chocolate for them to buy from the government shops at the time. Therefore, families relied on old cookie recipes every teatime. They are called “Ka’k” and they’re simple yet yummy! 🙂  
10) What did the protagonist do to make his boss so angry? Sometimes, you don’t need to do much wrong to be plagued with an angry boss 😅. The intro of the story is meant to communicate a general sense of stressful, unhappy adult life. From misfortunes at work to living in a rundown part of a city topped off with miserable weather. It’s often a combination of misery that unites to drive home that sense of hopelessness.  
11) On the package, it says, “GUESS! :D”. Is his mother using emojis? Do old people in Libya use them? Haha! Well, grandmothers themselves are often illiterate (very old grandmas, at least), so it would be someone writing on her behalf. But that twinkle in their eye and playfulness they will insist on being communicated!
  12) Which SMA7 Award winning entries do you like?
I loved the premise of “Grandma’s Flavor”, and the way EUDETENIS communicated the joy of food. I also adored “Forbidden Fruit” for its simplicity and the happiness and laughter you can’t help ending up with after reading it! 😁
I also have a weakness for Ahlemk’s style. I always look forward to reading her creations each round!  
  “I want to replicate Japanese manga success in my home country too!”    
13) How/What you wanna create from now on? I’m working on a couple of projects, most with characters and settings in the Middle East. The first one is “Ewa”, a manga that follows the trials and tribulations of a Libyan family that takes place in 70’s and 80’s. Another one is my series “Tubbaakh”, that describes with drawings the old folk-tale stories our grandmothers always told us at bedtimes that were passed down for generations (but I’d never seen written or drawn anywhere). The last one is “Juha”, a series of short Middle East stories! I feel like I owe it to give back to the art form some of my own culture as thanks for all the happiness and lifestyle it has shown me. My gratitude is immense.

“Ewa” – cover

14) What do you expect to achieve by taking part in SMACommunity – The readers, creators and the Japanese pro editors? It seems to me that, increasingly, succeed in SMA is the badge of authenticity you need to announce to yourself and the world that you’re there, that you exist as an author! “What do Japanese editors think of my work?” “Am I good enough?”. SMA is like an introduction, a way to say “Hi! I exist!” from your massive platform to all lovers and keen followers of the manga genre. So, on that note: “GUYS! HIIIIII!!!!!!!” 🤗
I want to be part of this new international manga world. To contribute with a uniquely Arab/British flavour. I wish to see a reading tradition develop in the Arab world and I believe manga is the perfect way for that to happen. So, I will take part in SMA till I meet with a Japanese editor one day and learn from them to replicate at least a little of Japan’s success in this field in my home country too, and the Arab world in general! Inshallah (if God wills)!!!   15) Anything else you would like to share with the community?  The SMA-Community is one of the most diverse, open, creative and talented communities over there. Please, continue drawing and sharing your stories… and keep them true to you! About myself, I hope that readers find my manga entertaining, relatable or even just interesting! Anything that will make a reader feel anything, to me is a success on a certain level!!! 😁 It’s a great honour that anyone can read anything I create, and if they enjoy it, I am humbled beyond belief. Thank you for reading these lines too! ^__^

AsiaAlfa! 😀

Thank you, AsiaAlfa! How happy we are to see you make lots of new friends through manga! We are sure you will find even more friends through SMAC! – the largest Manga community in the world! SMACommunity, do you want to make new friends like AsiaAlfa did? Start drawing for SMA9 round TODAY! SMA9 is the first round we have THREE themes to choose from, for your entry! ( Feel free to pick more than one, if you feel like the challenge 😉 Make manga your language too!  You have until March 31st (2018) to say hi to your new friends ! Click this pic to read more, about taking part in SMA 😃   See you next time! Bye Bye~
Enrico Croce

Enrico Croce