Tell the Whole Story

From the Curator’s Desk

Greetings friends:

This week’s newsletter is continuing the tradition of inviting members of our community to write From The Curator’s Desk, and for this edition, I’m happy to hand it over to Florence Bett-Kinyatti who is an author and lifestyle columnist with the Daily Nation newspaper. She writes on personal finance, urban culture and home styling. 

Please send your guest writing pitches for this section to chris@barazalab.com if you’re interested in being our guest curator on the newsletter, and you have something of interest to share to our community — a trend you’ve noticed or something you’d like us to think about.

~ Christine

For far too long, stories about Africa have been told through a singular lens, often reducing the complexity and richness of the continent to simplistic and stereotypical representations. However, there is a shift taking place, with more and more media outlets recognizing the importance of diverse storytelling that reflects the lived experiences of Africans. The session I attended at the recently-concluded Africa Media Festival titled “Beyond ‘telling the African story’”, explored strategies for storytellers and media organisations seeking to tell more diverse African stories with nuance, in a way that is empowering and authentic. I’d like to share my takeaways with you here: 

  1. Tell the whole story: Every story has more than one angle to it – usually, the angle that gets the most focus is the one that is told by most journalists. Rather than reach for these easy tropes, African journalists should give a little more thought to taking the path less chosen, one that presents African lives as complex. This means going the extra mile as a journalist.
  2. Give a chance to diverse languages: In a country like Kenya, we tell our African stories mostly in English – whether that’s in print or broadcast media. The panel challenged journalists to give a chance to our indigenous languages. Write a story in East African Kiswahili, narrate video and podcasts in Kinyarwanda, broadcast on your social media platforms in Yoruba and Igbo – whatever you can communicate in.

There is a collective assumption that telling a story in our indigenous language will lock out a majority of our audience but remember, there are artificial intelligence tools that can translate any of these languages into English, Chinese, French, German and other widely-spoken non-African languages.

  1. Allocate more resources to African storytelling: Because of infrastructure and connectivity challenges, Africa as a continent is not as easy to explore as, say, Europe or America. The hurdles that make it difficult for the African journalist to move around the continent and access rich authentic stories are numerous, such as visas, money for travel and upkeep, poor road networks, overzealous border officials,, personal security and what have you. 

Newsrooms should allocate more resources to its journalists to allow them to travel as far as the story demands. Only then can we really extend the agency to our journalists to tell our stories the way they need to.

  1. Find meaning in the connected human experience: Ultimately, as Africans and as global citizens of the world, we share a connected human experience. Storytelling lies at the heart of the survival of our diversity as humans. 

No matter where you go in the world, no matter which newsroom in which country, every African journalist must remember that we are more connected by our shared experience than we are separated by it. Knowing this then, African journalists with international media organisations should use this opportunity to promote their African voices and seek for more positive representation as a continent in these stories told from within the newsroom. 

African journalists have the opportunity to move beyond regurgitating tired tropes about conflict, hunger, and violence. Instead, they can shift their focus towards telling lesser-known, in-depth stories that offer a more meaningful and connected human experience, the panel heard. By exploring these narratives, journalists can broaden our understanding of the African continent and its diverse communities, while also challenging simplistic stereotypes and assumptions.


In the meantime, here’s:

  • What We’re Reading: The Blind Spot (pdf), a graphic novel by the very talented Chief Nyamweya, that brings to life the different ways in which politics plays out in Kenya’s food system, in the form of a visually compelling political drama set in a fictional future county in Kenya. The message: food is political, so pay attention.
  • What We’re Watching: The Last of Us, and then going down a rabbit hole to research if a global fungal pandemic that turns infected people into crazed zombie killers is scientifically possible. Maybe you don’t want to know the answer.
  • What We’re Listening To: Real Money, by Tortoise Media. The first sentence of the podcast goes: “This story started when someone offered me a million dollars.” Well, okay! You had me at hello.

As always, 

Christine Mungai

Curator | Baraza Media Lab


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