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This Is Africa presents: COVID-19 storytelling series

In a creative storytelling collaboration with the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), This is Africa explores new realities, based on the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic. The collection of feature stories, essays, cartoons, video and animations brings together different experiences, initiatives and perspectives on how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected and altered many lives across the continent as Africans continue to forge new realities and routines for themselves.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected and altered lives across the world and the African continent has not been spared from the unforgiving effects of undoubtedly the most significant scientific phenomena in recent history. The pandemic has reshaped and reconfigured our social, economic, and political realities as many Africans have been forced to adapt and forge new lives and daily routines, often times mundanely so.

This is Africa explores some new realities, based on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The collection of feature stories, essays, cartoons, videos and animations brings together different experiences, initiatives and perspectives on how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected and altered many lives across the continent as Africans continue to forge new realities and routines for themselves.

The effects of Covid-19 on many African countries, societies, communities, neighbourhoods and households have been widely documented in the media and on social media. While many important voices and stories have been represented, some equally pertinent narratives based on the experiences of often overlooked sources have continued to be underreported or ignored. In some cases, some of the experiences have continued to be silenced since the Coronavirus first appeared in Africa in late February 2020 and the subsequent commencement of lockdown restrictions. This is Africa seeks to plug some of these missing perspectives through a broad-based all-inclusive contribution from diverse stakeholders impacted by this global phenomenon. 

While some African countries appear to be past the worst, the impact of the pandemic on the lives and daily realities of African citizens has been serious. The pandemic has indeed decimated work opportunities putting many livelihoods at risk. The associated lockdowns have led to financial stress and insecurity, affecting the mental health illness of many people, inadvertently engendering social isolation affecting access to important support systems and networks especially for vulnerable people and those in abusive relationships. However, it’s not all gloom and doom. While there are well documented devastating economic and social disruptions caused by the pandemic, in this series there are also interesting stories of social initiatives and entrepreneurial opportunities that Africans are exploring to survive and transform the crisis into something sustainable. 

In our new series, we explore and reveal some true, personal stories impacted on by the pandemic. The pandemic has forced many across the continent to adapt in numerous ways, for the sake of their mental health wellbeing. In her article Joyline Maenzanise notes that marginalised communities have been experiencing challenges that affect their mental health, worsening existing fragile mental conditions. Thus, living in a pandemic has only brought more challenges. The LGBTIQ community has been physically and socially isolated from existing support systems, friends, or spaces that allow some people to express themselves. The feature article highlights some of the challenges that some queer people have been facing.

Siya Maukuzen. Photo credit: Tseliso Monaheng
Siya Maukuzen. Photo credit: Tseliso Monaheng

We also give you a video produced by Tseliso Monaheng based on a studio recording session and video interviews with members of a collaborative music project Is’xaxa spanning three countries over two continents about making music during a pandemic for posterity. This we certainly hope you will be enamoured with.

The stories we bring you also examine different realities. From stories documenting music and culture during a pandemic to dating and finding love in a health crisis. Indeed, the pandemic and its myriad of restrictions has transformed the way that we communicate with each other. The series also explores a variety of topics which include: religious, traditional and cultural barriers to Covid-19 vaccination, making music and filmmaking in the middle of a pandemic, politics around procurement and distribution of vaccines among others. 

The various ways in which the pandemic has had disproportionate economic impact on the urban poor (economically vulnerable households) has been widely reported.  We add onto this narrative with a tripartite video animation which reveals the experiences of a family during lockdown, including the effects on their livelihoods, sources of food and support networks. Its purpose is to creatively and visually tell the story of the impact of Covid-19 and restrictions particularly on low-income households. The family grapples with a myriad of challenges as they try to survive an unprecedented reality. A couple of imaginative and thought-provoking cartoons round off our series. 

We invite you to take a fresh look at these stories that we strongly felt we must tell and hopefully you will enjoy and learn from them.

The series is a creative storytelling collaboration between This is Africa and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).

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