Monday, May 7, 2012

Semantix: Doreen Baingana's Stories Out Of #TEDTalentSearch

When it comes to storytelling, Doreen Baingana is paralleled by few in the region, and admired by the rest.

Doreen is the author of Tropical Fish, an acclaimed collection of 'introspective and personal' short stories intertwined artfully into one historically accurate blend of life. The book won an array of accolades in 2006, including but not limited to the AWP Short Fiction Award and a Commonwealth Prize.

Her talk was on the power of words and language, and storytelling as a way to shift perceptions. It was a stroke of brilliance on TED's part, whether conspired or incidental, that she followed Dayo's inspiring talk on lighting up the dark continent. It was a case of 'repeat mindblows':

It may be arguable, but perhaps no one speaker on Saturday would better have been suited to talk about the power of words than a respected author whose every sentence leaves you powerless when she means to evoke the sentiment, and powerfully inspired whenever her paragraphs snip at the frays of your reason. 

"Doreen Baingana has set a goal as a writer to “complicate the negative narrative of Africa.”
And complicate it she certainly does, forcing you to walk in her character's shoes; and enjoy the experience. Listening to her, I went back to my final year at Varsity.

In my fourth year of Publishing and Media Studies at the Moi University, my lecturer introduced a concept I found quite intriguing. Metropolitan Language Centres, where young Kenyans can learn to speak their own languages, and understand their own cultures. He proposed that this sort of education could then be transferred all through the nation, by mandating that at a stage in their development, children go on a 'National Student Exchange' program. Brilliant!

Doreen Baingana Reads from Her Book Tropical Fish
The Power of Language as a tool for personal development is even better illustrated in Neuro Linguistic Programming; this approach to communication, personal development and psychotherapy, created in the 70s, has often been misused. The documented connection between thought, language and behavioral change leaves practitioners fully-equipped to bend the wills of their subjects by manipulating words. While this may yield desired results, for instance in rehabilitation centres, the same knowledge has been used to cause destruction.

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