Afro-futurism in the diaspora: storytelling and well-being

I recently taught a workshop on the importance of storytellers in West African culture to students in a youth mentorship programme. Griots are the creatives that tell stories through music, movement and spoken word. They use rhythm and sound to heal, preserve culture, and appeal to the community’s subconscious memory.

Sitting by a fire at night, the Griots would play their song or tell their stories using metaphor, myth and animal characters to imbue the community with wisdom. These stories offered listeners both entertainment and examples of resilience, courage, cunning and love. The musicians would play the Kora or the Djembe, which spoke directly to the dancers’ bodies.

Stories create the fabric of our cultural experience and allow us to remember that we have everything we need to move through a challenging or difficult situation. The wisdom of our ancestors is activated within us every time we recount a story in their name. We activate genes that are responsible for opening our hearts and minds to restoration, strength and evolution.

When we tell our stories, we heal. We create Communities that become a container for healing the past. We find creative ways to share our struggles and our triumphs.

Word sound and music hold a vibration, and with it, the potential to uplift and connect. Afro-futurism is the reframing of the African experience, bridging the gap between past, present and future through storytelling, mending a fractured history. It answers the question of how we heal the trauma of oppression and mends a fractured history.

These stories are available to us all through our lineage. Griots exist in every family, choosing to carry stories of resilience through their art or pen, through word sound, healing hands or movement. Some speak through music or watercolour, but the effect is all the same. We suspend despair, anger and apathy and activate our capacity to thrive.

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