Africa has often been portrayed in media and in culture from an outsider’s perspective. But as the continent plays a growing role in global economics, politics and society, African storytellers are raising their voices to proverbially bring others into their homes.
With that in mind, the Global Landscapes Forum held a storytelling competition during its GLF Africa 2022 conference, in which emerging artists from across the continent submitted videos showcasing life on the continent through various formats – music performances, fictional stories and mini-documentaries, to name a few. Here are the winners.
#1: Daniel Obloni Kweitsu (Ghana) – Little Drops of Climate Action
“When the last tree dies, the last human dies,” says a young woman trekking through a forest. So begins a short film featuring Eunice Okyere Agyapong, an environmentalist with the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana, where she raises tree and bamboo seedlings to restore land and fight climate change.
Her story inspired the filmmaker and environmental advocate Daniel Obloni Kweitsu, who was awarded first place in the storytelling competition. Over the years, Kweitsu has used his art to push for positive social and environmental change with a variety of organizations and businesses, often highlighting the work of other changemakers through film.
Kweitsu hopes that viewers can follow the example of Agyapong and add their small drop to the sea of climate activism: “At the individual level, we can all take little actions toward a greater social good.”
#2: Sandra Suubi (Uganda) – ‘Kiragala’ Green
“Kiragala” – meaning “green” in Luganda – is the name of a music video created by the artist and advocate Sandra Suubi to raise awareness of plastic pollution in Lake Victoria, which supports millions of people and is home to a thriving fishery.
Suubi, an “artivist” who often wears sculptures made with reused objects, decided to put one particular piece to song and play it at Lake Victoria’s Ggaba Landing Site. The music video is a collaboration with the multi-instrumentalist Michel Ongaro and Flipflopi, an organization known for building a boat made of recycled plastic and flip flops that it sailed on the lake.
Despite the lake’s pollution, the region’s governments have also pioneered measures such as the bans on plastic bags in Kenya and Rwanda. “This song celebrates the work that East Africa has done to stand against plastic pollution,” says Suubi, who added that Uganda is the first land-locked country to sign the UN Clean Seas pledge. “It encourages each one to play their part and reminds us that this Earth is our only home.”
Tied #3: Lord Muga Brian (Kenya) – Saving Mother Earth
When a catastrophe happens far away, it is easy to lose sense of the many personal tragedies it causes. Lord Muga Brian, the filmmaker who tied for third place in the storytelling competition, brings those individual stories to the viewer in his film about a family struggling through the drought that continues to rage across East Africa.
Brian based his film on events that have occurred in slums across Kenya, including those in the city of Kisumu, where the story takes place. The drought has caused drops in the Nyandos and Kibos Rivers, which has then led to water shortages in the city. Brian said the drought is “a nightmare that most of my cast and crew live in.”
“We want [viewers] to imagine losing their child due to a lack of clean water,” says Brian. “I want them to feel the need to plant a tree after watching this film and know they are actually saving a life.”
Tied #3: Oladele Bello (Nigeria) – Ghost
“Maybe God or the universe planted me here, just like a seed in a bowl of soil,” says a young but poor man with artistic aspirations. But his search to make his dreams come true end in tragedy, as one of the thousands of Africans who have died in recent years trying to reach Europe by boat.
This is the premise of the film by artist and filmmaker Oladele Bello, who has long been alarmed at the risk many Africans make to leave their countries: “I need people to see the harm in the illegal act of immigration. Your life is too valuable to pay with it.”
Bello uses his short films to call for social change, and he hopes that African viewers, particularly other creative people, feel encouraged to stay within the continent and help develop it.
“Anywhere you are is enough for you to tell your story, to affect change,” he says.