Do it yourself and be your own champion. Do not wait for anyone else to hand you your dream job. Create that opportunity for yourself. Believe in your ideas and dreams fiercely and people will naturally join you in your journey to make a change in whatever field or industry you wish to change. This is how I have managed to become a film director and successfully employed over 20 people and given some people the opportunity to take on leadership roles in my projects which they had never previously done so before. All in the short space of 2 years. So write that script, keep on drawing and make your own dreams come true.

Film & Media


The Hidden Hand Studios

Lola Aikins, 27, is one of the very few young black women working as a director of animated films in South Africa. Working at The Hidden Hand Studios, Lola does it all — she writes, directs and animates on all her projects.

Her animated short film project Naledi has gained considerable traction in the animation community in South Africa and abroad. The teaser trailer for Naledi premiered at Comic Con Africa in 2022 to a standing ovation. In her films, Lola focuses on authentic African aesthetics and telling stories that can relate to South Africans and have universal appeal.

She is transforming the animation film industry by employing predominantly black youth in her projects. This is a way for artists to get more experience in drawing digitally using animation software. She has employed more than 20 people through her projects.

Another initiative Lola has undertaken to help expand the animation community is through her group LOBA, where she and her colleagues hold monthly Come Draw With US events, friendly sketching tournaments and panel talks by industry experts and up-and-coming artists in the local animation industry. “We have so much talent and a wealth of stories — I wish to see more representation in our media,” she says.

BA, 2D Animation, Institution – Institute of The Applied Superior Arts, Paris France, 2018.

I have received over R1 million in grant funding in the past two years for my various film projects. The teaser trailer for my short film Naledi screened at the Cape Town International Animation Festival in 2023 and at the RENDACON Animation and Visual Effects Film Festival in Lagos Nigeria in 2022. I am The 2023 Road to Annecy winner which means I have been selected to pitch my project in Annecy France which is the biggest animation film festival and market in the world. I am also a 2022 Digital Lab Africa Finalist for my short film Naledi. My trailer debuted at Comic Con Africa in 2022.

Winning my first art competition in grade 5. Seeing my drawing in the Free 4 All newspaper was so encouraging. It was the first time I saw my drawing reproduced on a mass level. Ever since that day, I wanted to keep on seeing my drawings being displayed for all to see.

It sounds cliche but believe in yourself and keeps on drawing! It’s a long road to getting good. but you just have to stick it out. Don’t be discouraged by those who have negative things to say about you and your work. Also to give yourself grace. You’re way too hard on yourself and you’re trying your best and you are doing fine.

I wish for there to be more opportunities for the youth where our economy is thriving and youth unemployment has dropped significantly. I wish to see that we are on a path to becoming a global leader especially in animation. We have so much talent and a wealth of stories and I wish to see more representation in our media.  I also wish for there to be a significant reduction in gender based violence so the women of our country are safe. Also I wish to see that we no longer have load-shedding of course as that has seriously been a detriment to our economy.

View previous winners from 2018 to 2022

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