Teaching Children Digital Storytelling Using Afrikan Culture

On 16 June 2016 I was in South Africa running the Digital Storytelling Workshop in Johannesburg with kids from Protea South and Dikhabane Primary Schools, Soweto.

After working with 26 kids to cook up the script, characters and voice overs with South African flavors, we finally had a cleaned up version of the story – How to cook Umngqusho.

Now, some background.

Once Upon A Time

16 June 2016 marked a perfect date for a Digital Storytelling Workshop in South Africa. It is a national holiday that commemorates the anniversary of the Soweto 1976 uprising. I was also back in South Africa to deliver a paper at the University of Pretoria.

Arriving a day earlier gave me ample time to work with our partners – Tefo Mohapi (iAfrikan), Molefi Makananise (Who Are We Africa), Simon Chambert (Macroscopia Labs) and JoziHub for a long planned interactive Digital Storytelling workshop.

Johannesburg had an aura of calm and introspection about it on this day – mildly chilled weather with some sunshine and light traffic.

With Jozihub throwing its doors open to us, we got set to host the kids.


Sectional view of JoziHub, Johannesburg.

It wasn’t long before the kids dropped in, thanks to Molefi who’d picked them up from Soweto – a place that holds beautiful memories from my first visit.

We got down to business with introductions by showing the kids existing stories that had been developed by Genii Games to serve as inspiration.

Imagination is key and I’ve learnt never to understate the importance of related visuals to kids. Showing them what is possible here in Afrika is the way to go.

Getting Started Jozihub

Getting started with some inspirational made-in-Africa cartoons.

After that screening we talked about the underlying theme of our various Afrikan cultures. I told them I was from Nigeria, a country with over 250 ethnic groups and even more languages.

The kids gasped!

Sometimes, the shere magnitude of that fact doesn’t hit you until you meet an audience like mine. South Africa has fewer native languages so it’s understandable that they felt that way.

It was their turn. They shared their native South African cultures with me and we went about naming characters in local South African languages. There, I learnt a few words myself, including the multi-lingual translation of the word, story:

  • Indaba in isiZulu
  • Ibali in isiXhosa
  • Pale in SeSotho

I had a poor grasp of isiXhosa with its characteristic style of pronouncing certain words evident in its name.

As shared in this piece, one of the outstanding observation about South Africa is how well the kids understand their native languages. All of them had an understanding of more than one native South African language – SeSotho, isiZulu, SeTswana, TshiVenda, isiXhosa, Afrikaans etc. name it, they knew it! Impressive.

Learning Jozihub

Learning some new words in South Africa’s native languages.

Let The Stories Begin


For the story, we wanted ideas with South African themes. After hearing a few ideas, the kids agreed on the title, 'How to cook Umngqusho'.

Together, we would spin a story around the South African staple, Umngqusho, throwing in local characters like Tau (Lion in SeSotho) and Sekolopata (Tortoise in SeSotho).


Next, we penned down the script breaking the story into numbered lines. The kids had this covered on the white wall.

Writing Jozihub

Writing out the story script.

Drawing & Coloring

The drawing team - Manqoha Mabaso, Tshepo Teetsa and Tebogo Radebe - went to work after I walked them through a simple storyboard. With character references, they came up with the central characters and finally a storyboard to work with beyond the day’s session.

Drawing Jozihub

Drawing the storyboard.

Voice overs

Relebohile Pitso and Yolanda Mzwakali narrated the story. Afterwards, we got down to editing the result. We demystified the process by transferring the files to the PC and having the kids attempt the audio cleaning using Adobe Audition.

Voice over Jozihub

Voiceover recording session for the story.

Learning About Water Management With Simon

In between the three hours of the workshop, Simon Chambert blew open the minds of the kids by walking them through his water management game, which had interactive simulations of water flow.

It’s the best thing I’ve seen for demonstrating water management in a manner that excites and engages kids. The kids had a great time during the exercise.

Macroscopia Jozihub

Learning about water management with Simon Chambert.

The whole process took us about three hours, surely not enough to complete the entire exercise in addition to their varying skills set. But, it provided enough ingredients for the finished video not to mention the important inspiration for the kids.

Refreshments followed and then some selfies.

Lunch Jozihub

Refreshment time for our hardworking team!

Team Selfie Jozihub

Selfie with the team! Super proud of everyone!


We get to make the kids from Jozi into stars – digital storytellers; creators and not just consumers.

I can’t wait to see the kids receive copies of their works and in the next twenty years, have them reference this day when they connect the dots backwards.