For many, Africa Day is celebrated to commemorate the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) but for journalists, it is a day to celebrate African stories and to confront issues facing the continent.
At fraycollege, Africa Day is one to educate and learn about how African stories are being told, and new ways of telling these stories.
To commemorate and celebrate Africa Day this year, fraycollege hosted a webinar titled: New Ways to tell Africa’s stories, with a focus on how new mediums of communication, like TikTok, Documentation, Podcasting, and Virtual Reality, and how they are used as tools to tell African stories and control our own African narrative.
The webinar was hosted online by fraycollege Non-Accredited Programmes Coordinator Tamsin Wort. Tamsin was joined by Nigerian TikToker and influencer Charity Ekezie, LGBTQIA+ activist and filmmaker Zoey Black, The New Humanitarian Podcast Producer Marthe van der Wolf, and XR curator Michelle Angawa.
The webinar kicked off with a look into how the documentation of human rights violations in South Africa requires a sensitive lens. Black shared what was the first part of a series that looks at how LGBTQIA+ persons are treated by medical professionals, police, and government in South Africa.
Black, a trans women living in Cape Town, South Africa, said: “a lot of my work is telling queer stories with a degree of dignity.” Through film and YouTube, Black aims to bring issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community to light, because these issues are “constantly overlooked”, especially in South Africa.
“There is a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done for queer people,” she said, adding that: “one of the things we know is queer people are struggling to access basic healthcare.”
Black works with Iranti, a Johannesburg-based media-advocacy organisation that advocates for the rights of LGBTQIA+ persons, with a specific focus on lesbian, transgender, and intersex persons in Africa.
When documenting people’s stories, especially on sensitive issues, Black pointed out that there are several basic rules a filmmaker must be conscious of when talking to the people they are documenting.
“Being open and transparent on your intentions is important,” she said, “because your subject needs to know how their story is being told and shaped. The subject needs to understand how the story is going to be told, and if the filmmaker has permission to tell it that way.”
Black said: “I think our stories have been very much shaped by a perspective of people who are not from this continent. When it comes to new ways of telling Africa’s stories, she emphasised that people should utilise social media to talk about their lives, communities, and families because that forms part of the African narrative and that’s how people reclaim their stories.
For TikToker Charity Ekezie, her mission is to educate and inform people about Africa by using sarcasm! Ekezie’s number one goal is to break the stereotypes associated with Africa. For example: “Africa has no internet and technology”, “Africa has no cars”, or that “Africa is a country – not a continent”. She does this by making statements that contradict her environment. “I could be standing in front of a car and say: “yes, there are no cars in Africa,” she laughed.
Ekezie believes that TikTok is an innovative place to tell African stories because the audience is not limited. “TikTok is a bigger place to showcase ourselves because the algorithms are quite favourable in a sense that I could be in Nigeria and someone in Canada, Russia, or India could see my content,” she said, adding that “TikTok is a wide platform, and the world becomes your stage!”
She says TikTok is also a powerful tool to tell African stories because the social media platform doesn’t only push published content to a person’s own followers. “They also push it to new people, which allows bigger engagement,” she said.
For Marthe van der Wolf, podcasting is a great place to tell African stories because it decolonises Journalism, by allowing a variety of voices.
In an example of important podcasting topics, The New Humanitarian podcast producer shared some podcast examples with the Africa Day webinar audience that looked at artefacts stolen by the British government from native countries.
The Unfiltered History Tour by Vice World News is a 10-episode podcast that talks about looted artefacts currently on display at the British Museum, narrated by people from the countries the artifacts originate from. Van der Wolf pointed out that these kinds of podcasts are the kinds of stories that people need to hear, and they need to be narrated by people who understand the history of that country.
Van der Wolf said that in Africa, there are very specific requirements for a podcast to be easily accessible and engaged with. Some of these include things like, the podcast needs to be between 30 and 40 minutes long, it needs to have been uploaded to Apple Podcast or Spotify (which are the more popular podcasting platforms at the moment), it needs to inform, educate or entertain, and the audio aspect needs to be very clear.
She said anyone with a smart device could start a podcast.
Speaking on Virtual Reality, Michelle Angawa, joined the Africa Day webinar from Nairobi, Kenya. She said Virtual Reality could be divided into immersive journalism and narrative journalism – but that both could be quite the sensory overload for sensitive viewers.
Angawa defined immersive journalism as: allowing the audience to experience the story using their whole body, by placing them in a virtual recreation. This is in contrast to traditional journalism, where there are limitations.
Immersive journalism, Angawa said, allows you to be in the story and experience the story.
Previously used as a gaming tool, VR (or XR) has more recently been used as a way to tell stories in Africa.
“It provides a place for diversity in Africa, and we’ve already seen a rise in the market with people buying VR headsets. We’re looking at building the VR industry in Africa and hope that by 2025, the VR industry will be massive in Africa,” Angawa said.
You can watch our webinar on New ways to Tell Africa’s Stories, here.