Ilya Spitalnik, CEO of PowToon, shows the Hadza tribe of Tanzania a cartoon for the first time. Ilya Spitalnik, CEO of PowToon, shows the Hadza tribe of Tanzania a cartoon for the first time. Ilya Spitalnik, CEO of PowToon, shows the Hadza tribe of Tanzania a cartoon for the first time. (Photo: PowToon)

Here's what happened when an African tribe saw a cartoon for the first time

In the heart of sub-Saharan Africa, animation is bringing something special to one remote tribe: laughter.

For most of us in the developed world, watching animated television shows is as typical as eating eggs for breakfast.

But for the hunter-gatherer Hadzabe people of northern Tanzania, it was like watching a miracle occur. They'd never seen a cartoon – or even a laptop computer – before. When PowToon CEO Ilya Spitalnik powered up his Mac and hit play, the expressions on the villagers' faces was something these self-professed "tech nerds" still have trouble putting into words.

The founders of London-based PowToon, with roots in Israel and Europe, brought their latest animation platform to the Eastern African country with hopes of sharing their art and culture with them and documenting their journey. But along the way, they discovered something even more meaningful.

Hadzabe boys look at cartoons for the first time.Truly an eye-opening experience. (Photo: PowToon)

"...We accomplished what we set out to do – we proved that cartoons are a fundamental form of communication, instinctively understood by everyone across boundaries, borders, and cultures, regardless of whether you grew up watching Mickey Mouse or not," Spitalnik said. "But beyond that, we learned that no matter how far apart we might be from one another geographically, people are all connected, and the power of laughter and a little open-mindedness can bring us all together.”

The tribespeople learned they could actually create their own animation videos using PowToon's platform.The tribespeople learned they could actually create their own animation videos using PowToon's platform. (Photo: PowToon)

And the learning didn't stop there. Prior to their visit, Spitalnik and colleagues – COO Daniel Zaturansky and marketing manager Talia Finn-Jakar, both natives of Israel – discovered that the tribe has long suffered from eye problems related to contaminated water and dust.

So as part of their journey, PowToon arranged for local doctors to examine the tribespeople and offer help. Some were fitted with new eyeglasses, which allowed them to see better than they ever thought possible. Before they left, PowToon scheduled regular doctor visits for the tribe.

Doctors from the nearest town visited with the Hadzabe to examine their eyes and provide eyeglasses.Tanzanian doctors from the nearest town visited with the Hadzabe to examine their eyes and provide eyeglasses. (Photo: PowToon)

"He can see? Yeah!" a tribesman exclaimed as a fellow villager tried on his new specs for the first time. As if we weren't already convinced that laughter truly is the best medicine ...

A Hadzabe tribesman is fitted with new eyeglasses after a visit from local doctors arranged by PowToon.A Hadzabe tribesman is fitted with new eyeglasses after a visit from local doctors arranged by PowToon. (Photo: PowToon)

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