'Khutso Punch'.

Ricky Pascal Nzoni is a Congolese illustrator, comics, graphic designer artist and animator, based in South Africa. He often nicknames himself "Freehand". He is best known as co-illustrator of 'Nelson Mandela: the Authorised Comic Book' (Jonathan Ball Publishers, Umlando Wezithombe, 2008), an award-winning graphic novel about the life of South African activist and president Nelson Mandela. Nzoni is also the creator of the webcomic 'Khutso Punch' (2014).

Early life and career
Ricky Pascal Nzoni Kamango was born in Congo and gained a love for comics when his father brought them along to his house. He started drawing at a young age. He got his primary education between 1989 and 1995, and then between 1996 and 2002 completed his Matric in science. He furthermore studied multimedia between 2003 and 2006. He began his career as a graphic designer with Digital Edge/Fujifilm in 2005, and was then affiliated with Umlando Wezithombe ("History of Pictures"), a South African company headed by scriptwriter Nic Buchanan, which publishes comic books about African history and role models for a young audience.

The Madiba Legacy
He was one of the contributing artists of the 'The Madiba Legacy' series, which later formed the graphic novel 'Nelson Mandela: the Authorized Comic Book'. It was released on 16 July 2008, two days before Mandela's 90th birthday. The graphic novel adapts Mandela's entire life, from his youth over his famous imprisonment to his presidential election. It is comprised of eight individual comics which were circulated for free to South African school children between 2005 and 2007. The first issue, 'A Son of the Eastern Cape' (2005) reached a print-run of a million copies! The series was produced by Pitshou Mampa (lead penciller, inking, colours), Sean Abbood (colours), Santa Buchanan (storyboards), José Jungo (inks and colouring), Sivuyile Matwa (illustration), Ricky Pascal Nzoni (illustration) and Ritchie Orphan (inking, colours). Nzoni joined production in 2006, and presumably only worked on the later issues.

The authors were sometimes faced with challenges. Since no pictures were ever taken of Mandela before he reached the age of 19, the artists studied his facial bone structure as an adult and tried to imagine what he might have looked like as a young boy? The book was well-researched in cooperation with the Nelson Mandela Foundation. On the day the book was launched Nelson Mandela gave an official speech and joked: "You know you are really famous when you become a comic character." He expressed the hope that it would encourage young people to read more: "That joy has been mine all my life, and it is one I wish for all South Africans. If it is easy to read for other people like me, with eyes not like they used to be, and it reaches entirely new readers, then the project will prove to be worthwhile." The book was published in South Africa, but also appeared in translation in the Netherlands, France and the United States. In 2010 'Nelson Mandela: the Authorised Comic Book' won the Children's African Book Award for "Best Book for Older Readers", chosen by the Outreach Council of the non-profit corporation African Studies Association.

Khutso Punch
In 2014 Nzoni created the webstrip 'Khutso Punch', about a young boy who practices martial arts.

Animation career
Nzoni is founder of his own studio, Izonn Pictures and has worked on the animated children's TV series 'Zim Zim' (2011) and 'Jabu's Jungle' (2016- ). The latter show became a ratings hit in South Africa and was broadcasted in more than 22 other African countries with the same success. He furthermore contributed to the Namibian animated series 'Gasa' (2015) with Namibian-born producer/director Linda de Jager.


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