Africans cannot continue to allow outside sources to define their stories, said Moky Makura, executive director of Africa No Filter, speaking at the Jamlab Meetup virtual series on reclaiming African narratives through storytelling.
Three organisations are actively seeking to shift African narratives.
Brittle Paper, a digital content creation platform centred on African literature, believes that central to this rethinking is how we reclaim African literature. The platform aims to cultivate a fun and informative environment for African literature lovers and show that there is more to African literature than stories of suffering, said founder Ainehi Edoro.
The space sets out to guide readers on how to navigate the archive of African literature. “It’s important to invite readers into a feast of storytelling,” said Edoro. While Brittle Paper is built to be an incubation space for writers, Edoro is recognisant that most Africans are not online. “We have to pair digital with the real world physical spaces, like fairs where there are places in the community where people can be involved,” she said.
Ghanian tech entrepreneur Herman Chinery-Hesse has launched a platform that seeks to reduce the barriers to entry for budding writers in the literary world. African Echoes, what he calls “an assembly line of writers”, is a platform for unknown writers to be able to launch easily and readily onto the international stage. It gives African writers with unique stories a platform to tell their stories in their native language. Submissions to African Echoes are vetted by an executive editorial board which ensures that the content passes the organisation’s quality test.
“We translate, we launch on our app and send it out onto the world. We will be your publishing house,” Chinery-Hesse told the Jamlab Meetup.
Crucially, the board consists of Africans who understand African stories.
Makhura pointed out three prevailing narratives about Africa that were problematic. The first was that “Africa is broken and rest of the world wants to come fix us”, the second was that “we lack urgency because we can’t seem to fix ourselves we’re always looking outside”, and lastly “we’re dependent”.
She said through grants, Africa No Filter supported organisations that were disrupting the industry and shifting these harmful narratives. Moreover, as Africans we have to create and consume content by other Africans and not continue to be dominated by stories from Hollywood, she said.
“We need to make sure that we’re putting out our stories and that we are consuming our own content. As many people as they are on the continent plus on the diaspora, we will be shifting narratives.”
The way in which we consume content has changed and we have to think outside of the box if we are to reclaim African narratives.