When we think of how Africa speaks to the world, we sometimes think of the crying baby, its gaping toothless mouth. We think of the breasts shoved into its mouth, and the soothing relief that comes as the warmth of milk travels down a path to darkness.
Ever seeking for comfort, Africa reaches out to the world, arms outstretched. Today it’s a babble, tomorrow, a cackle and the next, wailing on top of our lungs. It’s all noise in some way. Nothing intelligible coming out of many a whimper as we attempt to tell our own side of the story.
A few Magazines, Prizes, and Awards are taking up the challenge of giving Africa’s stories a voice. To go beyond a whimper, we are consolidating platforms where these storytellers can be heard. We have the Awele Creative Trust, the Writivism Awards, The African Writer’s Trust and many others. It would not be out of place to say that these drops in an ocean have started to become ripples.
Last year, Sima Essien, after winning the Freedom Magazine Literary Prize, also emerged as the Okadabooks Union Bank Campus Challenge winner. Coincidence?
It’s August 2019, Resoketswe Manenzhe in a much-deserved honour also emerged as a winner of the Writivism Prize as announced by Brittle Paper. This news comes shortly after her story was listed as one of the winners for the June Collins Elesiro Literary Prize & cfwriterz Freedom Magazine.
Her story in the Freedom Magazine Issue V, “The Silent Plea”; a conversation happening at a hotel bar, grips the helms on the prevailing issues surrounding suicide, the act of killing one’s self.
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“The problem with suicide is going through with it,” said Amu. “I’m not talking about the Catholic belief that in committing suicide, one essentially condemns oneself to an eternity in hell. Nor the idea that suicide is inherently selfish. I’m talking about the act of committing it. The actual act of killing oneself, that’s the hardest part.” – The Silent Plea
Resoketswe’s story ends with a cliff hanger but does not fail to torture the subject adequately enough. It’s a story of youth, of the city life and also the dark realities of suicide.
It’s not that our stories are different from the world’s view of who we are. It’s that we are not allowed to tell them the way we experience them. Suicide, Love, Sweetness, Life and all of what happens in our daily lives as Africans will continue to require us to present our humanity as a race and a continent that is more often than not misrepresented as unfeeling.
It has become a necessity that we give ear to the voices emerging from the dark places and the warm, happy places that spot the nooks and cranny of Africa. Showcasing Africa’s humanity beyond the simple themes of poverty and lack would be just one step in presenting the true image of our dear continent.
The proliferation of magazines and African literary platforms may not necessarily give room for more and disparate voices. In fact, they might just be endorsements for the same writers who seem to grasp the art of showing us who Africa is. In this way, we find the best of every hue that is our stories and we tell them with our own voices.