What does it mean to be African? What sets this continent apart? How can we reclaim Africa’s stories?

These are all questions you’ll ponder on a visit to the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site. But this May, the world is in the grip of a global pandemic and so our journeys of discovery will, for the time being, have to take place in our minds.

However, we’ve curated some of the most thought-provoking talks on the subject for you to mull over and enjoy – from archaeologist Sada Mire’s quest to discover her cultural heritage and journalist Chris Abani’s exploration of how the ancient art on the continent tells a different story from what we see in history books, to film director Wanuri Kahiu’s work diversifying the African story with science fiction and fantasy.

These talks will fascinate you and get you thinking.

Cultural heritage: a basic human need – Sada Mire

“I wanted to know about African history, and this was a world history book – but there was only one page on Africa. And there was actually just one paragraph. And this paragraph mentioned the trans-Atlantic slave trade. And, that’s important. But surely there was more to African history than the trans-Atlantic slave trade.”

Telling stories from Africa – Chris Abani

“In other words, it’s the agents of our imagination who really shape who we are. And this is important to remember, because in Africa the complicated questions we want to ask about what all of this means have been asked from the rock paintings of the San people, through the Sundiata epics of Mali, to modern contemporary literature.”

A dig for humanity’s origins – Louise Leakey

“Just to put this in terms of generations, because people do find it hard to think of time, Homo erectus left Africa 90 000 generations ago. We evolved essentially from an African stock. Again, at about 200 000 years, as a fully-fledged us. And we only left Africa about 70 000 years ago. And until 30 000 years ago, at least three upright-walking apes shared the planet Earth.”

The powerful stories that shaped Africa – Gus Casely-Hayford

“The struggle to keep African narrative alive has been one of the most consistent and hard-fought endeavours of African peoples, and it continues to be so. The struggles endured and the sacrifices made to hold onto narrative in the face of enslavement, colonialism, racism, wars and so much else have been the underpinning narrative of our history.”

Fun, fierce and fantastical African art – Wanuri Kahiu

“This was my first experience with science fiction, and I loved it. So when I started to write my own science fiction and fantasy, I was surprised that it was considered un-African. So, naturally, I asked, what is African? And this is what I know so far: Africa is important. Africa is the future. It is, though. And Africa is a serious place where only serious things happen.”