Ever heard the starfish story? Well, it is said that once upon a time there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and them man called, out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied, “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
This extract from Loren Eiseley’s The Star Thrower speaks to the fact that we all have an opportunity to help create positive change in the lives of the different people who come our way. But some of us need star throwers, people who have the ability and resources to impact our lives.
Creatives need star throwers. Individuals and companies that will work with them to tell the African story, through storytelling build sustainable brands and contribute positively to the African culture. Africa has more stories to tell, stories that go beyond that which we have become accustomed to. Beyond the images of little children, malnourished, and with flies feasting on dry tears solidified at the corners of their eyes. Beyond, the shanties of growing slums and wars fought with old guns from old wars that are now forgotten.
For the longest time, I have been critical of the happenings in the continent, asking myself why. Why and how a continent so rich with natural resources can be so poor? How we fight wars we can’t remember how it began or why it persists? Why we hold on so ever tightly to the idea of the oppressed, like a badge of honor we believe in the narrative of we are the oppressed and deny ourselves the ability to dream.
We are so held up by the misfortune that has befallen us, that we deny ourselves the opportunity to tell good stories. Stories that can have a positive impact on the people, the communities and the businesses in the continent. Good stories that build courage in individuals, love for one another and change the image of our beloved continent.
There is more to the African narrative, there are a lot stories yet to be told, lots of people to tell it and to tell it in different ways. When I got my fellowship with Akoma media, I did not know what to expect. I wondered what a person like me would have to offer the creative industry in Kenya or to my team. I pondered on this for so long and finally it dawned on me, even the creative industry need social scientists and academics. Individuals who will engage research tools in the study of the creative industry. Individuals who will observe what’s going on, document progress, influence policies and ensure the industry thrives.
That said, we need businesses, individuals and institutions who will not only engage creatives but they will compensate graphic designers, animators or film makers for their work; those who will seek content creators to tell their brand stories, stories that will have a positive impact on a company’s market presence and product sales. Individuals who will develop content that can be taught in schools and inspire the next generation of creatives.
A long journey for African creatives has begun, two centuries after Thomas Edison invented the motion picture camera and Sam Goldwyn, Jack and Harry Warner and Louis B. Mayer created Hollywood. Through their skills, actions and investments these men built the American entertainment industry as we know it, and to some extent contributed enormously to the American image, dream and culture.
I am fortunate to seat among some of the most brilliant, creative minds from across Africa, how they will change the African narrative, image and culture is yet to be known. But is it not amazing that these young creatives from across the continent have a tribe they belong to, they have a support system in place and are backed by a team working so hard to amplify their voices and works. Is it not a lovely thing to have a star thrower in Akoma?