Storytelling employed as a tool to challenge stereotypes


Storytelling employed as a tool to challenge stereotypes

24 May

‘The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.’  – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Department of English, in collaboration with the Department of Library Services, at the University of Pretoria (UP) continues to engage actively with what is happening on the literary scene in South Africa by inviting local poets and writers to their frequent Meet Your Writers events. These events give students and the University community as a whole the opportunity to challenge the single story by exposing them to diverse voices from African writers on topical issues.  

Dr Nape ‘a Motana, an author who has worked as a copywriter, social worker and journalist, and David Nnanna Ikpo, author, Nigerian lawyer, storyteller and presently a doctoral candidate at the Centre for Human Rights at UP, recently participated in one of these popular events to read from and talk about their novels. Dr Montana’s novel Hamba Sugar Daddy tells the tale of the tortuous journey of Rolivhuwa, an 18-year-old ‘born-free’ whose financial difficulties are exploited and influenced by her group of chomis, prompting her to become a so-called ‘sugar baby’.  Mr Ikpo’s Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever in turn celebrates the enduring power of love, desire, faith, patriotism and the struggle for basic human rights in the face of political oppression and religious prejudice in the Nigeria of today.

In her opening address, Ms Kulukazi Soldati-Kahimbaara, a lecturer in the Department of English, said that both novels are topical. ‘They confront issues that we find problematic in society,’ she said, adding that both novels provide a good contribution in the sphere of storytelling.  

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When asked whether their novels carry solutions and implications that address negativities surrounding sexuality and sugar daddies, also commonly known as ‘blessers’, Dr Motana replied, ‘Yes, if you read Hamba Sugar Daddy you will find a solution towards the end of the novel. I didn’t need to do that in this case, yet I felt that I couldn’t just end the novel without some kind of resolution.’  While discussing the issues addressed in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever, Mr Ikpo explained that the point that he was trying to get across was that homosexuality itself is not a problem, but rather the negative attitude towards homosexuality and that the only solution to this is visibility and audibility. ‘The more we come to the table, the more our voices become louder and that is what I have done with this novel,’ he said. Both authors give the reader more than the single story and in that way allow less room for stereotyping.  

‘It’s very important for us to cover up these spaces where we can remember the importance of storytelling and in so doing think about ways in which storytelling prompts us to pay attention to these difficult questions and social issues,’ said Prof Corinne Sandwith, Associate Professor in the Department of English. Prof Sandwith further added that what struck her the most about the event was the idea of writing out of anger, writing with a sense of conviction and purpose and ‘making these hidden aspects of our experiences visible by looking at the aspects of our lives that are thought of as taboo and not open for discussion in many ways’.

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Dr Nape’a Motana and David Nnanna Ikpo at the Meet Your Writers event