The old African proverb “until the Lions learn to write, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter” exemplifies literary tradition in Africa. It is an adage that encourages African people to take action by writing their stories in order for African stories to be heard from African perspectives. Since the early days, African communities have been passing down their histories, cultures, science, technology and education through the written word.
The long history of oral tradition in Africa and the dominance of colonialism had such a profound effect on the continent that it is often overlooked that Africa has equally had a long tradition of written history. Africans began writing on a progression of materials from rocks, papyrus to paper. African rock “art”, scripts, and hieroglyphics can be found all the way from the Cape in the south, to the northern most parts of the continent in Cairo. It is only natural that with current technological advances, this literary tradition has now entered the computer age through the blogosphere.
African bloggers (Afro-bloggers) play an important role in telling the stories of the continent. They bring African narratives to the foreground in a continent whose narratives are constantly under threat by internal forces (government or interest groups) and external forces (western hegemony and belief systems). They bring the traditional and contemporary topics in to a new medium. Blogging creates a space where Africans can write about the issues that are important to them.
African bloggers are not limiting themselves to familiar stereotypical themes on the continent that center only on war, poverty, disease, corruption and European narratives. Topics range from clean water, female circumcision, starting a business, professional development, history, their culture or whom they think will triumph in this year’s Big Brother Africa! Those that do comment on traditional or familiar narratives about Africa are “writing back”. They represent a diversity of African voices and allow Africans to write about a variety of issues affecting the continent.
Telling African stories have been problematic on the continent for various reasons including censorship, publishing costs and gender. It was not long ago when enslaved Africans in the Diaspora were not permitted to read and write. Then this was replaced with a world view where only one overarching perspective was told – that of the Global North. The act of writing our own stories or blogging is therefore important for a continent. It balances ubiquitous enlightenment period grand narratives that erase the African narrative from world history. It engages both Africans and non-Africans alike in changing the narratives of Africa. When Africans ‘learn how to write’ by writing African stories on the blogosphere, Africans are reclaiming Africa’s place in the world. They are carrying on the long tradition of sharing ideas, technology, science, legends, and myths through literary tradition on the continent. A large source of empowerment on the continent stems from being able to express our “Africaness” in writing.
This includes the ability to tell our collective narratives the way we want them to be told. Our ancestor realized the empowerment that both oral and written tradition can bring and ironically used oral tradition to pass on this idea. The old African proverb is therefore centuries ahead of its time even though blogging is of our time. Whether Afro-bloggers are telling stories that are extraordinary or mundane what is important is that the collective tales of the hunt are bringing marginalized narratives to the center.