The power of storytelling in the fight for climate justice

Inform, educate and advocate – while still entertaining

All live-streamed sessions from GLF Nairobi 2023: A New Vision for Earth are available to watch on demand here.

Stories have the power to ignite change, spark ideas and move us in ways that facts and figures never can. So, in the run up to GLF Nairobi 2023: A New Vision for Earth, we at the Global Landscapes Forum called on youth from across Africa and the African diaspora to share their visions of thriving, healthy landscapes where communities prosper and justice prevails.

The response was incredible, with hundreds of stories pouring in from across the continent and beyond. After much deliberation, the three winning entries of the 2023 African Youth Storytelling Contest were selected, and we caught up with their authors to find out what inspires the storytellers of tomorrow.

First place: ‘Tales of Taste’ by Wangui Kimani (Kenya)

Wangui Kimani is a creative entrepreneur, poet and writer based in Nairobi, Kenya. She describes her cross-genre art as “floetry,” an infusion of poetry, music, fashion and “her presence.”

Often drawing on her experiences as a young woman and her community, Wangui’s work explores themes including mental health awareness, women’s empowerment, peace, climate change, and social justice, with her main goal to use art as a tool of change and advocacy.

Tales of Taste, Kimani’s winning submission, is no exception and delivers a powerful message inspired by her community.

“Farming is despised, but my mum sustained us in school with it,” she explains. “The notion ‘pray when hungry,’ or other things people say instead of coming up with better solutions, was part of my inspiration,” she says, as was “using art to challenge different movements.”

“A story is more relatable, so it humanizes the complex climate movement, and you get to reach a wider audience, especially youths,” says Kimani.

This is especially true of video, she explains, which is why she chose to record this story as a short film: “A well-executed video can tell a story without the audio. I chose this medium since it really complemented the words I was voicing as well as evoking more emotions.”

“The journey of using art as a tool of change is something that I’ll continue advocating for as an artist, and I am looking forward to collaborating with more organizations that support movements that impact my community at large.”

Follow Wangui Kimani on Instagram.

Second place: ‘Climate Justice’ by Akwa Felicity Asibi (Nigeria)

Akwa Felicity Asibi is a Nigerian professional creative writer who has been using the art of poetry to “convey social justice stories and issues” for over half a decade.

“Storytelling is one of the most effective mediums for communicating the woes of climate change, as well as the solutions that lead to achieving climate justice,” she says. “It serves to inform, educate and advocate for the climate movement while still entertaining the general public.”

This ethos is very present in Asibi’s winning piece, which offers the perfect balance of education and entertainment as it explores issues around climate justice and the need for immediate action.

“I was inspired by a strong motivation to be the change I want to see by being part of the climate conversation,” she explains. “I was also inspired by the need to inform and educate young people, while also entertaining them.”

This youth focus is what led to Asibi’s story being the sole audio-only submission in the top three: “I chose the medium of audio because my primary target audience is youths, and based on the most recent trends and practices, audio content is one of the most acceptable content formats that capture the attention of young people.”

Third place: ‘Save Mother Earth’ by Othman Amina (Nigeria)

“Storytelling is extremely powerful because it has the capacity to reorient people’s mindsets,” says Othman Amina, who took third place in the 2023 African Youth Storytelling Contest.

“The climate crisis is real, and storytellers tell real-life stories of the victims of these catastrophes in a beautiful art form to call our attention and offer possible solutions.”

Amina, nicknamed The Audible Queen, is a Nigerian writer, political scientist, spoken word artist, storyteller, climate justice activist, and much more. She is also the co-founder of Beyond the Surface Community and founder of Project Advosafe.

Amina’s abundance of energy and drive springs from what she describes as “an immeasurable amount of love for my fellow humans.”

Speaking about her winning submission, Amina explains: “The central idea that inspired me is that human activities are the main orchestrators of the climate crisis. I felt there was a need for me to write and use my voice to call the attention of the people to stop such actions and adopt safety measures.”

“As humans, we should always aspire to be the guarantors of each other’s peace, prosperity, safety and well-being and ensure a sustainable future for us all,” she concludes. “Let’s stick together and fight our battles until we win, and we will win.”

Other notable submissions from the 2023 African Youth Storytelling Contest will be featured on the GLF website and social media channels.

Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.



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