Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Reclaiming Our Stories: Lady Umukoro’s ‘Distortion’ Empowers African Voices in the Diaspora

The ‘Power of Your Book 2024’ showcases how empowering the voices of global authors in the disapora helps to unite and celebrate african literature and legacy

The African diaspora community, a global network of people of African descent living outside the continent, embodies a diverse array of cultures, histories, and identities. Today, this diaspora spans continents, making significant contributions to the arts, sciences, politics, and various aspects of society while maintaining a deep connection to their ancestral heritage.

Shaped by a complex history of migration, including the transatlantic slave trade, colonialism, and voluntary migration in search of better opportunities, the African diaspora community is characterized by its rich cultural heritage, resilience, and strong sense of identity. Across the globe, members of this community have made notable contributions to various fields, shaping the world we live in today.

Lady Umukoro’s book, ‘Distortion’, is a prime example of Afro-futuristic storytelling, offering a fresh perspective on African stories from an African lens. The book’s impact and significance in the diaspora community will be explored in this feature story.


By Collins Odigie Ojiehanor

Storytelling, in particular, has been a powerful tool within the diaspora for preserving history, culture, and traditions, as well as for advocating for social justice and equality. Storytelling within the African diaspora is not merely an act of narration but a profound expression of identity and cultural preservation. It serves as a vital tool for passing down traditions, celebrating heritage, and advocating for social justice.

In the face of historical and ongoing challenges, storytelling becomes a means of reclaiming narratives and envisioning futures through authentic African perspectives. In a compelling webinar titled “The Power of Your Book 2024,” hosted by Obehi Ewanfoh on the Obehi Podcast, Ewanfoh emphasized that “promoting book writing and storytelling is essential in shaping the narratives and histories of African communities, making events like this one is essential in the cultural and educational empowerment of the diaspora.”

On the importance of literacy, book writing, and storytelling within the African diaspora community, Ewanfoh highlighted that “The Power of Your Book 2024” is dedicated to promoting book writing and storytelling, which play crucial roles in shaping the narratives and histories of African communities. He stressed that storytelling is not merely an act of recounting events but a vital means of reclaiming and reimagining African history and futures through authentic African voices.

Lady Ejiro Umukoro, a seasoned journalist and author, who presented on the topic From News Reporting To Literary Impact, shared her journey from reporting news to crafting narratives that resonate deeply with her audience. Her work has not only informed the public but also transformed perspectives through her storytelling.

She passionately discussed how storytelling has the power to reshape and redefine narratives, especially from an Afro-futuristic perspective. Lady Ejiro Umukoro emphasized the necessity of Afro Futuristic Storytelling, which reclaims and reimagines African history and futures through the eyes of African storytellers.

Lady Ejiro Umukoro’s acclaimed book, “Distortion,” has been a significant force in shaping narratives within educational settings. Recently approved by the Delta State Government and Ministry of Education as literature for schools, “Distortion” has become a pivotal part of the curriculum, influencing young minds with its rich and resonant storytelling.

Umukoro’s book, Distortion, which has been approved by the Delta State Government and Ministry of Education as literature for schools, exemplifies the power of Afro Futuristic storytelling. The book has been instrumental in shaping narratives and providing relatable characters that resonate with readers. Through Distortion, Umukoro has created a story that not only entertains but also educates and empowers young minds.

She highlighted that “Distortion” weaves a tale that resonates deeply with readers, providing characters and storylines that reflect the complexities and beauties of Nigerian life. The book’s impact extends beyond mere entertainment of reading; it serves as a mirror, reflecting societal issues, cultural heritage, mental health, Covid-19 and the lockdown saga, and the resilience of the African spirit.

Through its pages, children, parents, students and readers alike are invited to explore their identity, understand their history, and envision a future that honors their roots. Lady E Umukoro highlighted that storytelling is not just about recounting events but about shaping perceptions and influencing societal change. Her transition from news reporting to literary work underscores the transformative power of words and narratives. “Distortion is not just a book; it is a movement towards reclaiming African stories, ensuring they are told with authenticity and pride without being myopic of the representation of the every day life of the people”

Lady Ejiro Umukoro underscored the importance of unbiased representation in storytelling, stating that in Distortion: “I chose to present every people, tribe, and language in their true sense, in its originality, the way they are.” She vividly depicted Nigerian life, capturing the languages, customs, and narratives of diverse Nigerian tribes without bias.

Umukoro’s approach extended to tackling sensitive issues such as gender-based violence, child labor, domestic violence, and the Osu caste system, which historically marginalized and dehumanized certain groups. She asserted, “The view and perspective of Africans matter in the narrative we give to the next generation.” Rejecting terms like “servants” and “colonial masters,” Umukoro added, “They are not my masters; I choose to be who I am.” Her commitment to authenticity and inclusivity resonates deeply, offering a narrative that honors African existence and challenges stereotypes in literature and beyond.

As a journalist turned author, Umukoro’s transition from news reporting to literary impact has been marked by her commitment to representing every facet of Nigerian society with honesty and integrity. She emphasized the significance of language, culture, and tradition, ensuring that her narratives reflect the richness and complexity of Nigerian life. Umukoro’s approach goes beyond mere storytelling: “ it is a deliberate effort to challenge stereotypes, address social issues such as gender-based violence and caste discrimination, and empower marginalized communities through literature.”

Umukoro’s highly commended book, “Distortion,” serves as a testament to her storytelling prowess and commitment to inclusivity. Approved as literature for schools, “Distortion” has become a fundamental text in Nigerian education, offering students a window into their cultural heritage while confronting difficult realities. Through her characters and narratives, Umukoro confronts issues that often go unaddressed, fostering empathy and understanding among readers.

Central to Umukoro’s philosophy is the idea that African narratives should be shaped by Africans themselves, free from external biases or colonial perspectives. She challenges traditional literary norms by amplifying voices that have historically been silenced or misrepresented. Ewanfoh accentuate that by doing so, Umukoro not only preserves cultural heritage but also empowers future generations to embrace their identity with pride and authenticity, mirroring the shoulders we stand on.

In her own words, Umukoro captures her submission: “The view and perspective of Africans matter in the narrative we give to the next generation.” Her work extends beyond literature, influencing societal attitudes and contributing to a more inclusive dialogue about African identity and history. As she continues to advocate for diverse representation in storytelling, Umukoro remains a beacon of inspiration for writers and readers alike, demonstrating the transformative power of literature in shaping a more equitable and understanding world.

Afro-futuristic storytelling championed by black writers, has significantly impacted the African diaspora, contributing richly to the arts, sciences, politics, and various facets of society while maintaining a deep connection to ancestral heritage. Black writers like Octavia Butler, Nnedi Okorafor, and N.K. Jemisin have been at the forefront of this movement, using their work to explore complex themes of identity, diaspora, and futuristic possibilities for African societies. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, while primarily known for her contemporary fiction, Adichie’s storytelling often includes elements that challenge traditional narratives and incorporate speculative aspects, contributing to the broader Afro-futuristic discourse.

These authors create worlds that reimagine African history and envision futures where African cultures and people are central to the narrative. Nnedi Okorafor, a Nigerian-American writer, has further expanded the genre with her novels “Who Fears Death” and the Binti series. Okorafor’s stories are deeply rooted in African landscapes, mythologies, and traditions, presenting a rich tapestry of African cultures in speculative settings. Her work challenges stereotypes and offers a new perspective on African identity, where technology and tradition coexist harmoniously.

Afro-futuristic storytelling transcends literature, influencing other artistic forms such as music, visual arts, and film. Artists like Sun Ra, who envisioned cosmic futures through jazz, and filmmakers like Ryan Coogler, who brought the Afro-futuristic world of Wakanda to life in “Black Panther,” have expanded the reach and impact of this genre. Their works collectively contribute to a broader cultural movement that celebrates African heritage and imagines dynamic futures.
Afro-futuristic storytelling is a celebration of African identity, resilience, and creativity. It empowers black writers to reclaim narratives, challenge prevailing stereotypes, and offer transformative visions of the future. Through their rich and imaginative stories, these writers ensure that the African diaspora continues to contribute profoundly to global culture, while remaining deeply connected to its roots.

The webinar also featured other notable speakers, including Denise Kelly Roberts, who spoke on “Decolonize Your Storytelling Voice,” and Tarnya Coley, with her inspiring session “Your Voice Matters!” S. Lewis-Campbell discussed “The Importance Of Book Writing Among People Of African Descent,” while Teresa K. Page, LLC, shared insights on “Documenting And Delivering Your God Given Message To The World.”
Bringing unique perspectives and insights to the table, Denise Kelly Roberts spoke on “Decolonize Your Storytelling Voice,” emphasizing the importance of shedding colonial influences in narratives. “Our stories are ours to tell, and they deserve to be told from our perspectives, without the taint of colonial viewpoints,” Roberts asserted, encouraging writers to embrace their authentic voices.

Tarnya Coley’s session, “Your Voice Matters!,” was a powerful reminder of the significance of individual stories. She inspired the audience by stating, “Every voice has power, and your story can change the world.” Coley emphasized the need for African diaspora writers to share their experiences and perspectives, highlighting that each unique story contributes to a richer, more diverse literary landscape.

S. Lewis-Campbell discussed “The Importance Of Book Writing Among People Of African Descent,” focusing on the crucial role of literature in preserving history and culture. “Book writing is not just about telling a story; it’s about preserving our heritage and ensuring that future generations understand their roots,” Lewis-Campbell explained, underscoring the enduring impact of written narratives.

Teresa K. Page, LLC, shared her insights in “Documenting And Delivering Your God Given Message To The World,” emphasizing the spiritual and personal significance of storytelling. “Your message is a gift, and sharing it with the world is your purpose,” Page stated, urging writers to view their work as a divine mission to inspire and uplift others.

The speakers highlighted the importance of authenticity, cultural preservation, and the profound impact of individual narratives. By advocating for diverse, honest, and empowered storytelling, the webinar showcased how literature can serve as a catalyst for change, reflection, and connection within and beyond the African diaspora.

Ewanfoh concluded the event by reiterating the critical role of African diaspora literature in shaping history. He noted, “There is a lot of story going on in the society we live in, so story becomes very important in life.”

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