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Learning from Boniface Mwangi

“Until the lion has its own storytellers the hunter will always be glorified. … you need the people who live in Africa to tell their own stories.” This statement, by Boniface Mwangi, a photographer and naturalist from Kenya, is familiar to us here at Studioriley thanks to our friend and collaborator Shahidul Alam. It echoes throughout the mini-documentary by Cassandra Herrman for the New York Times OP Ed, Op Doc series.

“Stories are best told by the people living them” is a foundational belief we have at the studio. The big data and social research programs that defined the industrial era are all focused on learning about others. In this new philosophy, made more powerful by newly achieved access to education and technology in the Majority World, we switch from “learning about…” to “learning from…”, which is also the title of our blog-like website.

And what do we learn from a Kenyan activist visiting America? “Africa does not need a savior. America needs a savior.” Look at the young faces in the film. See how they engage with his observations that Americans do not have to go as far away as Nigeria or Kenya to seek out battles worth fighting. There are battles here at home, where our social structure is straining under inequalities and prejudice.

This is the message from the near future: We can learn from people all over the world and reconsider our role in society and culture here at home. The young people in this documentary are the next generation of American citizens, hoping to be active and framing their activism with one eye on the African experience.

In this short documentary the filmmaker eloquently captures the spirit of youth, both in the Majority World and near home in America. She echoes what we have found in our research and what we hope to explore more and more deeply in the coming months.

See the whole NYT article here.

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