Why The Most Important Person in Africa is the Storyteller

Storyteller. At its basic level, the word conveys the role of someone who preserves the memories, beliefs, aspirations, experiences of a people, a society, a civilization. Storytelling is the convergence of many disciplines, as many disciplines involve storytelling such as history, sociology, anthropology, photography and of course, literature.

I appreciate the storytelling that is done on a micro-level that requires one-one-one interaction with people on-the-ground.

Researchers say that its the ability of humans to tell stories that has greatly contributed to our survival as a dominant species.

Storytellers have always existed and continue to exist in societies around the world. Today’s digital tools can enhance the storyteller’s work as storyteller fuse technology into their work.

I have chosen to work as a storyteller, using the media of journalism (newsgathering an reportage), ethnography, creative writing (poetry and prose) to capture and disseminate.

That’s why I was so excited when I came upon this TEDx talk from former CNN journalist & media entrepreneur Zain Verjee. The speech hit home for me because Zain spoke about the need for African storytellers to be on the forefront of shaping the stories and presentations of the peoples across Africa.

Zain made references to some of Africa’s most celebrated storytellers, including: Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe and Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembane.

Here are some bits from her speech that particularly resonated for me:

“The storyteller, the creative and cultural entrepreneur who can export Africa to the world.”

“The storyteller, the creative and cultural entrepreneur is the one person who can project and protect Africa’s soft power on the global stage.”

“…if this problem is not address this continent will continue to struggle for respect, for deference, for reverence, like India and CHina are now starting to receive. And that America and Europe have cultivated for centuries. As long as the creative does not get as much love as the tech guru, the finance entrepreneur, the infrastructure badass…Africa will not own its story.”


Check out her speech in this video:






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