HomeStandard StyleBuilding Narratives: Africa Day: We have to own our own narratives

Building Narratives: Africa Day: We have to own our own narratives

Fungayi Sox
In one of the videos which went viral sometime back in 2009 – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – a celebrated and renowned African storyteller – made a moving TED talk speech which was titled The Danger of a Single Story.

Ngozi Adichie addressed people,including the white delegates on how and when she grew up.

She loved reading and had absorbed most Euro-centric literature which would impact her early writings at the age of seven.

She pointed out that in the early days she had written about snow in England and Ginger beer,material which she came across in her readings of American and Euro-centric Literature.

She added how she had neglected the beauty of her country, Nigeria,including the cultures of their people, as well as the beauty of the African Narrative.

“Because of writers such as Chinua Achebe, I went through a mental shift in my perception of literature. I realised that people like me, girls with a skin of chocolate whose kinky hair could not form pony tails could also exist in literature, I started to write about things I could realise.What the discovery of African writers did for me was it saved me from having a single story of what books are,”she said.

It was at that critical realisation which shaped her writings in particular her observations of building and embracing the African Narrative.

Africa has for long been portrayed as a dark continent filled with poverty whilst ignoring the other stories of success and the beauty of African culture and ways of life.

With the African continent having celebrated yet another year on May 25, this previous week, it is of paramount importance to re-emphasise the power of the pen in building and shaping Afro-centric Narratives.

Literature is indeed a powerful force in re-writing the African narrative.

In my previous article last week, I reviewed the poetry Anthology Agringada, like a Gringa, like a Foreigner (Modjadi Books, 2019), which was written by Tariro Ndoro under the headline Ndoro: An Advocate of African Pride.

Ndoro’s poems somehow echoed Ngozi Achide’s sentiments in particular how our African language and some of our cultural values have been sort of criminalised by the European ways and culture.

Early pioneers of Afro-centric narratives include Zimbabwe’s iconic authors Tsitsi Dangarembga as well as the late Dambudzo Marechera, who despite some character flaws or defaults remains one of the great literary heroes of our time who was ahead of his times.

Building Africo-centric Narratives is a crucial part of “Decolonising the mind” to quote the guiding philosophy of the great African Academic Ngugi Wa Thiong’o.

Takudzwa Masapa, an award-winning Zimbabwean author and the founder of African Writers Round Table – a platform which seeks to appreciate and lobby for African Literature, recently wrote to me what seemed like an African writer’s anthem.

Masapa wrote:

We understand the agony of an untold story

And none will carry it

Not on our watch

We are AfriCan

Letting every story see the dawn of the daylight.

We carry storytellers

They will never walk alone,

As they prepare to dish for the world

No story should be allowed to follow you to the grave

It must be told

We enrich generations to come not graveyards.

We see the story you carry

We are the midwives

We understand your story

We are committed to help you share it with the world

We are the voice of the voiceless

The poem for me articulates the current status quo in terms of the importance of the role of building Afro-centric narratives if we are to continue to embrace and preserve our African culture,values and narratives with a great sense of pride.

Literature is indeed a powerful force in re-writing the African narrative.

It is the great Chinua Achebe who interestingly observed “It is the storyteller who makes us what we are,who creates history. The storyteller creates the memory that the survivors must have–otherwise their surviving would have no meaning”

  • Fungayi Antony Sox is the managing partner at TisuMazwi — a communications centred social enterprise that facilitates book project management including writing and publishing, distribution, printing, ghost-writing, content development and marketing, digital media and personal development. He writes in his personal capacity. For feedback contact him on 0776 030 949, follow him on Twitter: @AntonySox or connect with him on LinkedIn on Fungayi Antony Sox.

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