Pasts meeting futures: content creators join hands to counter repressive norms and practices in southern Africa

October 17, 2019

Hivos southern Africa held a two-day Regional Makers Summit Critical Content Creation training workshop on 11 and 12 September 2019 in Harare, Zimbabwe. The summit, themed, Past Meeting the Future: Forms, Themes, Mediums of Free Expression in 21st Southern Africa” brought together creative and critical content makers from Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe to discuss key existent and emerging issues concerning online content creation and freedom of expression against a background of repressive norms and practices in southern Africa.

The regional content creators summit held within the framework of the Resource of Open Minds (ROOM) project was designed as a participatory linking, learning and sharing summit with motivational speakers, experts and participants.

In her opening remarks the Hivos Regional Director Tanja lubbers explained that there are new mediums/ technologies of expression in the Southern African region which also affect forms, content and speed of free expression.  As a result, she added, new internet based expression platforms such as social media need to be harnessed to expand free expression for young people in the region.

In the keynote address, Brian Kagoro, a Pan Africanist, Constitutional and International Economic Relations Lawyer emphasised the importance of undergoing transformation.

Brian Kagoro, Pan Africanist, Constitutional and International Economic Relations Lawyer

“We are trying to transform in ourselves, never mind those running the states, undemocratic, intolerant, inward looking mind-sets, cultures, behaviours and sometimes irresponsible and short sighted use of whatever resource we have to do in our activism,” he said.

The two-day workshop included breakaway sessions for further discussion of specific topics, plenary sessions which afforded everyone an opportunity to share their experiences and challenges specific to their countries and organisations.

Creative content creators from the three different countries had the opportunity to meet, learn and share experiences at the summit. In a session on free expression as critical to democratic identity in southern Africa, participants expressed willingness to achieve free expression through online platforms.

“What we are doing is changing the narrative and trying to bring new perspectives to what people always believed. And try to shift their mind-set through the content that we create. Our content is usually interactive we try to make sure that it goes out to people in ways that it also just challenges how they have always thought about different things,” said Dennis Imani from Kuwala Creatives Malawi.

“It’s exciting and at the same time there are other quotas that are not really receptive to it, but we try to secure make sure that we tackle the real challenges by providing solutions,” Imani added.

In another session entitled “meet the makers”, the Women’s History Museum in Zambia expressed their need to drive the agenda of bringing women into spotlight.

“So, through our work at the Women’s History Museum, we want to focus on and uncovering African indigenous knowledge with a focus on African women and bringing that out through research of course and validating that research and then disseminating that information to the public,” said Imanga Kayama, the organisation’s Finance Director.

Imanga Kayama, Women’s History Museum in Zambia

“The challenge that we identified is lack of information about women from our past that were inspirational and gave other women urgency to be or become fearless about who they wanted to become in society. So, for example heads of states, or generals that in current times is considered phenomenal, whereas in our work it is not a shock it’s not a surprise. It’s something that was there in the 18th century and even before then, the only problem is that it’s never been documented and definitely not being highlighted,” said Kayama.

For continuity and sustainability, Hivos has a series of similar planned events. “We are organising a few of these meetings across Africa, in east Africa and in north Africa. We have a Pan-African event called African Crossroads which is taking place later this year in Momabasa in Kenya. We try to bring all the different organisations to discuss latest trends and themes on the African continent. And of course we hope that this community keeps in touch and keep working together on this important topic,” said the ROOM global project manager, Arthur Steiner who was also in attendance.