After I watched one of Ishmael Beah‘s several lectures on his book, I was rightly inspired on the fact that no one will ever tell your story as good as you. With a carefully woven narrative and a well coloured setting to bring into our imaginations the trajectory of the Sierra Leonean war and its implication on children, Beah succeeds in holding any reader spell-bound for all moments spent juicing the book. After I read the book, I asked myself who could have told this story better than Beah himself? I read beyond the language and the imageries it used to communicate the story. I felt the emotions streaming from the lines betwixt the text, and literally walked the frightful paths of labyrinth-like forest of Sierra Leone‘s countryside along with the confused children. It can only be told by Beah and he did justice to his story.
This points me to the fact that Africans over the years have never really told their stories for what it is. We have often received attention because someone else told the story and defined the narrative way too early before we come to grips with the fact that we are not active in the conversation. This could be an extreme characterization of the issue, but perhaps I can only express it this way so we fully get my point. With Africa having experienced so much in the last 50 years, there is a lot to storyboard. We stand the risk of our unborn children having to read the stories we didn’t write just as we read the stories of “how we were discovered”. Oh! that I read from my father’s great grand father on how his people met with the Caucasoid foreigners that first stepped foot on our shores. Maybe my understanding of our history would have been different. Even though the sages have passed down wise words woven into our vernacular conversations, and I have been taught songs and moonlight stories that help my appreciation of where I come from, I am still bereft of a complete capture of the story of my origin. Is there something to do in provoking the dead to talk.
Every time I read African literature, it were as though I was eating a well prepared meal with a combustion of amazing spices, but cannot tell what these spices are or where they are got from. Unfortunately our writers tell their stories like the American grocery store, selling quick fix meals already precooked. I want the total story, the complete picture, the whole frame, the original and unedited script. Sadly, we are still without many storytellers, although almost every tribe across the continent appends such an honoured title on special men. We are not without the tellers of stories, but are they telling the stories? It’s as though the clouds have refused to uncover the moon that we may gather again at the village square and listen to stories told by us and about us.
So much is going on in the continent now that must be talked about, creating everlasting analogies that will enrich the progression of our cultures. We must not let any song go unsung, any scene go unpainted, and any whisper go unscripted. Every time I watch the African story being portrayed on CNN and other international media, I grind with dissatisfaction because I know the story they tell is incomplete. Although I am encouraged by the growing competence of African writers, journalists, movie-makers, there remains that we need to collectively but subtly enact an unwritten law forcing us to capture our every passing moment. Let’s not also forget that this time in history has provided us with all the viscera needed to output quality stories that will properly tell the world on who we truly are. And this is one reason it will be unforgiving if in another 50 years the present is read in the future without true African voices narrating our stories.
Thumbs up to Ishmael Beah and several others, who have chosen to tell it by themselves and not be coaxed into pandering for the profiting thereof. They have armed us with truth and beauty, giving us a better understanding of the motherland.
Let me allow you watch Ishmael Beah’s video below to enjoy his tragic but instructive story.