‘Djeliya:’ Graphic Novel Review

Djeliya is a strange and beautiful combination of magic and technology, of traditional folklore and post-apocalyptic cyberpunk. Moreover, it is a perfect embodiment of why Stories Matter.

Rooted in West African culture and folklore, the story follows Awa Kouyate and Mansour Keita. Awa is one of the Djeli—a line of counsellors and advisors who provide guidance to rulers. They’re the keepers of all knowledge and wisdom which they pass down through music and storytelling.

Awa is Djeli to Mansour, the son of a great king, forever living in his father’s shadow. Awa is likewise the daughter of a great Djeli, and while he wasn’t as well known across the land as Mansour’s father, she still often feels like she’s living in his shadow.

The world they live in is broken. A great and powerful wizard, Soumaoro, destroyed it years ago, and now continues to destroy any new world that tries to rise up in its place. People are struggling just to survive. Despots and dictators spring up to control what they can, before Soumaoro shows up to destroy them, as well.

The most feared of these despots is Mbam, an anthropomorphic pig who wreaks almost as much chaos and destruction upon the world as the wizard Soumaoro. Now, Awa, Mansour, and their traveling companion, Oriundo, must go up against Mbam and try to set right even just a small fraction of what’s wrong with the broken world.

There’s a lot going on in this comic. At times, it may be difficult to keep track from one page to the next of who everyone is, what their relationships are to one another, and what each of them is trying to do; however, as you keep reading, it becomes clearer and easier to follow. Before long, you’ll find yourself completely engaged in everything that’s happening.

There’s also a huge emphasis on the tradition of storytelling. Many of the characters and concepts that come up are based in African—particularly West African—folklore. There’s a brief guide at the end to the traditional and cultural references.

In addition, there’s plenty of storytelling going on within the story. Every chapter interweaves the present action with a story, told by one of the characters, of something that led up to this point. And each of those stories sheds new light on who those characters are, how they got here, and where they’re going now.

The artwork, likewise, is amazing and unique, with an art style that complements the unique storytelling style. It’s full of great details and often makes interesting use of color, as well. As I said before, there’s a lot going on in this comic, in terms of both story and art. As such, it lends itself well to multiple readings. I’m definitely looking forward to reading it again, as I’m sure there are plenty of great details that I missed the first time around.

The journey this comic takes is a unique one in terms of both style and content. And it’s definitely a journey worth taking. It provides an amazing window into a culture that a lot of us know virtually nothing about. And if you look closely enough, it can provide a window into yourself, as well.


Creative Team: Juni Ba (author and illustrator)
Publisher: TKO Studios
Click here to purchase.



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