There have been many periods in the present and the past in which parachute journalists and writers fall over themselves to go to ‘the authentic Africa’ to tell the ‘real African story.’ Even though they may have been rewarded with accolades, they were still chasing mist, a phantasm that never existed and never will. For there is no ‘African’ story, just diverse stories of Africa told by Africans. There is no ‘African’ problem, just a multivariate set of global dilemmas that impinge on the lived experiences of African people. Africa is the most diverse continent on the planet. The top 20 most diverse countries are all in Africa. How can an singular storied African identity exist? The adjective ‘African’ may be of all adjectives most tortured!
‘The system of storytelling on Africa is too often incomplete, stereotyped – and specious…Media reporting on Africa rarely focuses on everyday matters or the curiosities of daily life…Rather than “the African story” there are very many African stories, and what I can do, as a journalist, is to tell some of them. Africa is not rich or poor, educated or illiterate, progressive or archaic. What Africa is depends on which part of it you are referring to. No single story can adequately reflect that, but a multiplicity of stories can and should broaden our received wisdom about the continent. With more platforms and opportunities than ever before, there has never been a better time to challenge that confusing and costly concept of a single African story.‘ – Nancy Kacungira who won the first BBC World News Komla Dumor Award for Africa-based journalists.
My encouragement to any Africans who may stumble across this blog – use the space you have, tell your own story. Not the story people expect to hear, but speak your truth.
Here is a collection of varied talks of varied experiences:
In Telling the African Story by Komla Dumor, Komla, a BBC Business Reporter native to Ghana, discusses his ideas, principles and values of balanced representation and coverage of Africa.
In an engaging and emotional talk, Hafsat Abiola-Costello, a Nigerian human and civil rights campaigner, touches on the strength found within and by going through her family’s storied legacy in Nigeria.
In Debunking the Made-for Africa Script, Catherine Phiri, a Zambian media executive, talks about what made for Africa can look like – personal, high quality, connected.
Sada Mire, a Swedish-Somali archaeologist, using her own personal story into archaeology, asserts here that cultural heritage is a basic human need.
Mallence Bart Williams is a Sierra Leonean German social entrepreneur. In this very hard hitting talk, Mallence lays out the continuous destabilization of the African markets and the exploitation of her resources.
Minna Salami, is a Finnish Nigerian journalist. In this talk, using the stories of her Nigerian grandmother, Minna succinctly deconstructs the creation of narratives about African women.
Kah Walla, is a Cameroonian politician, entrepreneur and social activist. Here, with inspiration from the words of assassinated Burkinabe president, T N Sankara, Kah Walla tells us to be audacious in our imagination and unwavering in our hope.
Eleanor T. Khonje talks about how she discovered that her own experiences of her native Malawi were privileged experiences. And what she did.
Panashe Chigumadzi, from Zimbabwe, makes the case that stereotypes can be frustratingly hard to shake off, sometimes even for the very people they victimise.
In this talk, Zimbabwean graphic designer, Saki Mafundikwa, celebrates the many forms of written communication across the continent of Africa.
In this talk, Kopano Matlwa Mabaso of South Africa, tells the story of how she and her friend Chrystelle Wedi had the vision to set up mobile, ultrasound scan clinics in remote and rural areas.
Finally, from Nigerian author and orator, Chris Abani, – a story of stories of people: People standing up to soldiers. People being compassionate. People being human and reclaiming their humanity. It’s “ubuntu,” he says: the only way for me to be human is for you to reflect my humanity back at me.
There is no ‘African’ story, just diverse stories of Africa told by Africans. If you are looking to hear an African story, try listening to us without your preconceptions. If you are African and you want to tell your story… ask yourself… What is MY story? Use the space you have, tell your own story. Tell it now. Speak your truth.