The dangers of a single story- Chimamanda Adichie

You will be richly blessed by this video!! This is an amazing speech by Chimamanda Adichie about the need to learn about the multiple stories to a situation/issue/people  rather than fall prey to stereotyping people under a ‘single story’. (I love her story of how her roommate assumed that she was a poor, uneducated African just because she was a Nigerian.)






I found the issue of a single story to be true in my life when people in New Zealand used to assume that I was a quiet, non-English Chinese speaking girl who loved studying all the time. I disliked being type-cast as ‘a typical asian’ (with the compulsory dismissive looks) without the person making the effort to know me. However, I have to admit gaining satisfaction by blowing their expectations of me out of the water!

Once you have finished the video, read the article at  on how to write about Africa. The first paragraph says it all!!! Clearly this written tongue in cheek but it reveals how we all have cultural lenses and inaccurate ways of understanding each other.

“Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’. Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans…Bad Western characters may include children of Tory cabinet ministers, Afrikaners, employees of the World Bank. When talking about exploitation by foreigners mention the Chinese and Indian traders. Blame the West for Africa’s situation. But do not be too specific.”

What this suggests to me is that in Malaysia, there is a need to weave in multiple narratives and to avoid using single stories where we depict the ‘Malay as lazy’, when clearly there are many who are not. Not all Chinese are business people and not all Indians are lawyers. As Malaysia looks towards its future and working towards a stronger nation, it really must seek to create space so that multiple stories can exist.


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