How time flies! It’s been 8 long weeks since the memorable Digital Storytelling Workshop in Johannesburg with kids from Protea South and Dikhabane Primary Schools, Soweto, South Africa. After working with 26 kids to cook up the script, characters and voiceover with South African flavours, we finally have a cleaned up version of the story – How to cook Umngqusho. Yay!
Now, some background
Once upon a time in Johannesburg…
June 16, 2016 marked a perfect date for a Digital Storytelling Workshop in neighbouring South Africa. It was a national holiday to commemorate the anniversary of the Soweto 1976 uprising and I was back in South Africa to deliver a paper at the University of Pretoria. Arriving a day earlier gave me ample time to work with our partners – Tefo Mohapi (iAfrikan), Molefi Makananise (Who Are We Africa), Simon Chambert (Macroscopia Labs) and JoziHub for a long planned interactive Digital Storytelling workshop. Johannesburg had an aura of calm and reflectiveness about it on this day – mildly chilled weather with some sunshine and light traffic; Perfect! With Jozihub throwing its doors open to us, we got set to host the kids.
It wasn’t long before the kids dropped in, thanks to Molefi who’d picked them up from Soweto – a place that holds beautiful memories from my first visit. We got down to business with introductions by showing the kids existing stories that had been developed by Genii Games to serve as inspiration. That’s usually my starter. Imagination is key and I’ve learnt never to understate the importance of related visuals to kids. Showing them what is possible here in Africa is the way to go.
Next, we talked about the underlying theme of our Cultures. I told them I was from Nigeria, a country with over 250 ethnic groups and even more languages. The kids gasped! Aha! Sometimes, the share magnitude of that fact doesn’t hit you until you meet an audience like mine. South Africa has fewer native languages so it’s understandable that they felt that way.
It was their turn. They shared their native Cultures with me and we went about naming characters in local South African languages. There, I learnt a few words myself including the multi-lingual translation of the word, Story
- Indaba in isiZulu
- Ibali in isiXhosa
- Pale in SeSotho
I had a poor grasp of isiXhosa with its characteristic style of pronouncing certain words evident in its name. Not the kids! As shared in this piece, one of the outstanding observation about South Africa is how well the kids understand their native languages. All of them had an understanding of more than 1 native South African language – SeSotho, isiZulu, seTswana, TshiVenda, isiXhosa, Afrikaans etc. name it, they knew it! Impressive!
Let the Stories begin…
For the story, we wanted ideas with South African themes. After hearing a few ideas, the kids agreed on the title, How to cook Umngqusho. Together, we would spin a story around the South African staple, Umngqusho throwing in local characters Tau (Lion in SeSotho language) and Sekolopata (Tortoise in SeSotho language).
Next, we penned down the script breaking the story into numbered lines. The kids had this covered on the white space provided by the JoziHub.
Drawing & Coloring
The drawing team - Manqoha Mabaso, Tshepo Teetsa and Tebogo Radebe- went to work after I walked them through a simple storyboard. With character references, they came up with the central characters and finally a storyboard to work with beyond the day’s session.
Relebohile Pitso and Yolanda Mzwakali narrated the story using a smartphone recorder. Afterwards, we got down to editing the result. We demystified the process by transferring the files to the PC and having the kids attempt the cleaning using Adobe Audition.
Learning about Water Management with Simon
In between the 3 hours workshop, Simon Chambert blew open the minds of the kids by walking them through his water management game, which had interactive simulations of water flow. It’s the best thing I’ve seen for demonstrating water management in a manner that excites and engages kids. The kids had a great time during the exercise.
The whole process took us about 3 hours, surely not enough to complete the entire exercise in addition to their varying skills set. But, it provided enough ingredients for the finished video not to mention the important inspiration for the kids Credit to the team. Refreshments followed and some selfies.
Finally! We get to make the kids from Jozi into stars – digital storytellers; creators and not just consumers.
I can’t wait to see the kids receive copies of their works and in the next 20 years, have them reference this day when they connect the dots backwards.