10.5 ways of looking at a story (Africa and the Telling of Tales)

A village Chief listens during a community meeting / Ngegebma, Kailahun District
Community meetings are held in Kailahun’s villages to ensure the returnees successfully re-integrate. Here, the Chief of the village of Ngegebma listens to returnees’ questions.
Photograph by Caroline Thomas
Caroline Thomas is a documentary photographer based in Sierra Leone. She is a stringer for EPA and works with NGOs and the UN as a photographer and communications adviser.

The name Kailahun rang in my ears for more than a decade – the civil war in Sierra Leone was almost exactly coterminous with my time working for the BBC Africa Service – but I’ve never seen the place. I find this picture, from the new website African Lens (Telling the Story of Africa), both beautiful and moving.

The inaugural editorial is suitably thought-provoking and concludes on a rising clarion note:

These are exciting times for visual storytellers, with the power of the web facilitating the global production and circulation of new photographic projects. There are many challenges involved in getting better stories to the right people, but the gatekeepers of the mainstream media no longer have total control over what we can or cannot see. If we appreciate how stereotypes have been produced and can be contested, we can, over time, achieve the re-visualization of ‘Africa’.

The author, academic David Campbell, links, more than once, to this utterly delightful TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which I’m embedding here in the hope that everyone who comes across it will watch it all the way through. It’s worth every minute of it.

A vision indeed. But perhaps if every child in the world were issued with and inspired by Ben Okri’s 10 1/2 Inclinations (advice he formulated when asked to recommend the top ten books he thought children should read) we should be nearer that three-dimensionality of mind:

The 10 1/2 Inclinations

1.) There is a secret trail of books meant to inspire and enlighten you. Find that trail.
2.) Read outside your own nation, colour, class, gender.
3.) Read the books your parents hate.
4.) Read the books your parents love.
5.) Have one or two authors that are important, that speak to you; and make their works your secret passion.
6.) Read widely, for fun, stimulation, escape.
7.) Don’t read what everyone else is reading. Check them out later, cautiously.
8.) Read what you’re not supposed to read.
9.) Read for your own liberation and mental freedom.
10.) Books are like mirrors. Don’t just read the words. Go into the mirror. That is where the real secrets are. Inside. Behind. That’s where the gods dream, where our realities are born.
10.5) Read the world. It is the most mysterious book of all.

(Okri via Jeremy.)