July 12, 2024

Elevating indigenous and modern storytelling in South Africa

2 min read

Storytelling has always been a part of our heritage in South Africa, starting off with gatherings around the fire where traditional tales were often narrated by the elderly in the family. These tales, usually told in the local language, acted not only as entertainment but were also used to instil moral values, impart knowledge and teach heritage, among other things.

The introduction terms they used when narrating the tales like Kwasukasukela in IsiZulu, siSwati and Kwathi ke kaloku ngantsomi in IsiXhosa languages and Nghane Nghane in Khelobedu are entrenched in the country’s heritage. 

Modern storytelling, albeit in a different format, is no different. Podcasting is the medium that we are now accustomed to, and it has grown exponentially in the last five years.

These tales, traditional as they are, have made their way to the modern world of podcasting, through the playwright and writer Dr Gcina Mhlophe’s newly launched podcast, African Story Magic with Gcina Mhlophe narrated in isiZulu and English targeted at children.

African beliefs and identity is another key part of heritage, and The Journey Kwantu delves further into this, hosted by Vusumzi Ngxande. 

It does not just stop at folktales and African spirituality; after all, when storytelling takes form in a native language, it is bound to intimately captivate its audience. The IsiXhosa podcast Epokothweni with Babalwa Nonkenge, which focuses on personal finance, is a perfect example.  

“When we launched Spotify for Podcasters as an all-new, first-of-its-kind platform with everything needed to create and grow a podcast, we wanted to remove the barriers that are often the hindrance when venturing into the podcast space. Removal of these barriers enables authentically South African storytelling to shine, and it is encouraging to see podcasts in different languages and with diverse content making waves on the platform”, says Ncebakazi Manzi, podcast manager for Spotify Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Epokothweni with Babalwa NonkengeAfrican Story Magic with Gcina Mhlophe and The Journey Kwantu podcasts are important in the modern world of storytelling. The modern world is often presented as the opposite of culture, the opposite of native languages, especially among the younger generation, the majority of whom make up the highest age group at over 32% consuming podcast content in South Africa. 

The Spotify 90-day data further reveals the podcast medium grew between 2021 and 2022 by 65%, showing no signs of slowing down. The growth coincided with the After School Is After School With Sis G.U launch in 2021, one of South Africa’s top 10 beloved podcasts on Spotify.

As for timing, during the commute in the morning between 07h00 and 09h00 and again in the afternoon between 16h00 and 17h00 seem to be the most popular hours. It is not surprising therefore that South African listeners listen to more podcasts than any other country in sub-Saharan Africa. 

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