The Kenyan novelist, Yvonne Owuor, should be applauded for her rousing TEDxEuston talk about seeking out new ways of imagining and telling Africa’s stories.
She makes the point that the world has gotten so used to thinking of Africa through narratives that go from unbridled optimism to sheer contempt.
We all saw how the whole hype about Africa as the rising continent was abandoned the moment Ebola struck. Overnight, Africa, a continent of over 50 countries, became tagged Ebola-country and, as Owuor cleverly puts it, being African became synonymous with having the virus.
The Ebola epidemic brought a spotlight on how much Africa was still misunderstood—”Africa as a crisis of meaning” is how Owuor puts it.
But there are lessons to be learned.
“The Ebola pandemic…offers our Africa a profound gift, she says, “it demands that we ask again “what does Africa mean for Africa?” before we bother with what African means for the world.”
I couldn’t agree with her more that reimagining African by inventing new stories to tell about its past and the possibilities in its future is a task that must begin in Africa and with us.
To this end, she urges Africans to “look inward,” to “ask new questions,” to source for new words and images to carry those “energizing values and ideals which we need to repopulate meaning.”
A must-watch video!
Owuor’s debut novel titled Dust came out last year. What blew me away when I read it was her unlimited lyrical prowess. The woman can write! The poetic flow and depth of her fiction writing is stunning to experience.
It’s no surprise that she’s the one up there on that stage in London inviting Africans to embrace the power of words, stories, and images.
Enjoy watching and have a lovely weekend!