Updated: August 24, 2019 9:18:09 am
In this 2009 TED talk, Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tears into the cultural cliches and appropriations that plague our world. Almost a decade later, we still find ourselves blighted by the same issues, our ignorance leading us astray and making us read the world as a ‘single story’.
In her 18-minute talk, Adichie brings in personal anecdotes of learning things and unlearning them, growing up, of seeing the world through the prism of innocence; of telling apart the right from the wrong, and going about educating others on the way.
“I am a storyteller… I read British and American children’s books. When I began to write at the age of seven, I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading. All my characters were white and blue-eyed. They played in the snow. They ate apples. And they talked a lot about the weather. This, despite the fact I had never been outside Nigeria,” she says.
What this demonstrates is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story; particularly as children,” she says. “Things changed when I discovered African books… I realised that people like me — girls with skin the colour of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails could also exist in literature”.
Adichie says she was 19 when she attended university in the United States. Her roommate was shocked to learn that she could speak in English. “She was confused when I said that Nigeria happened to have English as its official language,” she says.
“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess. But stories can also be used to empower… Stories can repair broken dignity… When we reject the single story, when we realise that there’s never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise,” Adichie says in conclusion.
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