African writers share their story of storytelling

By Gautham Vinay

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Authors from African nations interacting in MBIFL

Thiruvananthapuram: "Africa has been in motion for a long time, and the narratives that emerge about Africa challenge the grand narrative," said South African novelist Futhi Ntshingila. She was speaking at the session Writing Africa, The Way Forward at the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters here on Friday.

The session discussed the narratives of Africa and shared experiences from across the continent. The session was moderated by Mshai Mwangola, a performance scholar, orator, director and storyteller. She asked ‘what is Africa, and what is African writing' to the speakers.

Ntshingila called Africa the 'Grandmother', referring to the origin of humanity. The continent, in connection with the Indian Ocean, has many stories to tell, she said.

According to the author, language comes with its own philosophy.

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor mentioned how people claim to have an idea about Africa. In reality, even they do not fully grasp the continent. Myopia of the colonial experience has impacted Africa and the perspective on the continent in various ways. There is a bloodline that flows through the tributaries of the Indian ocean, she said.

Khadija Bajaber added that to learn and understand more about Africa, we must open our eyes and look for what is in front of us. The importance of time is very significant, and we should focus on our work. Authoring the present is a simple way of making way for the future. "Africans are good oral storytellers, but if the traditions stop, the whole history and culture could be lost,” she warned.

Mshai Mwangola asked the authors about the purpose of their writing and the method of conveying their ideas. For Yvonne, adding the quintessential element of Africa is key. Futhi said she tries to refresh the literature of Africa because most of their stories are buried under, and nobody is looking into it. Khadija mentioned that creating stories worth believing and making them equally exciting and serious is a crucial characteristic.

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