Most of the cartoons we grew up with were about heroes taking on their foes in battle, talking animals, or sunny days in a place where the air was sweet and everyone wanted to be your neighbor.
There were diverse characters on Captain Planet and Power Rangers, but aside from Sesame Street, there weren’t many cartoons that focused on developing a cultural identity or knowledge of heritage.
Now, through Dora the Explorer, Ni Hao Ki-Lan, and Maya and Miguel, our kids are learning more about cultures and languages around the world–but here are three more cultural cartoons you may not have heard of.
We were introduced to Tinga Tinga by the 2Live Crew’s godparents. Inspired by traditional African folk tales, Tinga Tinga answers the questions you’ve always wanted to ask. How did the zebra get its stripes? Why doesn’t the hippo have hair? Why does the giraffe have a long neck? With a cast of animal characters, Tinga Tinga uses the Tingatinga artwork of Tanzania to tell fun stories that the whole family will enjoy.
Bino and Fino are a brother and sister living in Nigeria. With the help of their Mama, Papa, Mama Mama (grandmother) Papa Papa (grandfather), and a magical fairy named Zena, Bino and Fino tackle tough topics, like when Fino wants to join the soccer club instead of the dance club like the other girls, and African history, when Papa Papa teaches the children about Nigeria’s birthday.
Tell Me Who I Am tells the story of Nia, a girl from 14th century Timbuktu, and her magical friend Funzi, who are transported to modern day America in a pyramid shaped spaceship. Nia and Funzi meet Kwame and Manny, who are working on their history project. They work together to teach the Kwame and Manny’s class about historical black figures and to keep the evil wizard Komo from stealing Nia’s treasured Imhotep medallion.
Help your kids to lean more about their diverse heritage! If you’re looking for more diverse cartoons to share with your children, check out the discussion at InCultureParent.com.