Whose Story Is It Anyway?

Troy Onyango

For as long as human beings have existed, people have told stories. Some of these have been passed in various forms from generation to generation – “added to, subtracted from and tinkered with” – and they still persist. Each generation has inherited the tradition from the one before and passed it to the next, like a baton in a relay, the stories themselves choosing their bearers and etching themselves in the memories of those worthy of carrying them to the next. And yet also, each generation has come forth with their own stories, conjuring tales with such great imagination. Some of the new stories are variations of the much older ones, taking the desirable and memorable parts along, but some are entirely original creations, a testament to the prowess of the storyteller and their imagination. Through all this, a question has persisted: who does a story belong to? Who owns it? Who can tell the tale?

Long ago, there were no stories on Earth. In those days all stories belonged to the sky god, Nyame, who kept them in a box beneath his throne,” begins one of the Akan’s tales that revolve around Anansi the spider. The tale is about how there were no stories in the world until Anansi went up to the sky and made a bargain with Nyame so that the people could get the stories. At the end of the tale, Nyame proclaims: “From this day forward, all of the stories belong to Anansi. Whenever someone tells one of these stories, he or she must acknowledge that it is Anansi’s tale.” 

It is a tale so old, and so it tells us that people have been trying to answer the question of “who do stories belong to?” for as long as they’ve been telling stories. We all have stories to tell. And as we tell them, their “belonging” shifts. And so, as we tell stories across generations, the lines become blurred and the only thing that remains is that they are all our stories and we, the listeners or readers, also own them as much as the tellers or writers. They belong to us all. 

It is for this reason that I am so grateful to every writer whose work has found a home in Lolwe. Without these stories, Lolwe would not exist. As a platform for stories, Lolwe has been championing the idea that our stories deserve to be written and published and read, and that we own our stories – even the ones passed down to us in bits and pieces by people who came before us. It is my hope that the writers are encouraged by the work we do and that they keep telling the stories they want the world to hear.

In all this, I am grateful too to the wonderful team of editors I work with at Lolwe, especially the indefatigable Michelle Korir, who brings her brilliance to all the pieces and makes them shine. I am deeply thankful too for the guest editors Tlotlo Tsamaase, Michael Frazier and Lucky Grace Isingizwe who read through numerous submissions and carefully made their selections, a process that is never easy. They have worked so hard on this issue and I truly am glad for their contribution.

To Mòje Ikpeme, who keeps gifting us with wonderful illustrations for the stories, and to Mukrim Qarim Zam, who provided the cover image, I am grateful for your artistry and brilliance!

Our supporters who have kept us afloat by reading, sharing, talking about, donating to and cheering on Lolwe, please keep at it. Keep the steam running. Keep coming back and reading more. Keep donating to use. Talk to everyone about Lolwe. Post, share, retweet. Do it all! You give us all the kindle needed to keep the fire within us burning. It is my hope that you all bring the same energy next year. You are the best!

Finally, as we take a rest and take stock of everything that has happened to us this year and prepare for the new year, it is my hope that the journey Lolwe has taken you on this year has been a thrill. I wish you all the best in everything you set out to achieve in 2023!

Happy holidays!

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