Stories of Africa’s wildlife and natural history have long captivated the world. Yet these stories, which have inspired people around the world to preserve the continent’s vast landscapes and spectacular species, are rarely told from the perspective of Africans. National Geographic explorers and filmmakers Noel Kok and Pragna Parsotam-Kok have created an initiative – Nature, Environment and Wildlife Filmmakers (NEWF) – that empowers the next generation of African storytellers who promote conservation through film. To amplify their impact, NEWF has collaborated with the National Geographic Society to develop Africa Refocused, a program dedicated to continuing NEWF’s capacity building initiatives for emerging storytellers by providing them with the tools and skills they need to succeed in the industry.
“How do you change history? You change the storyteller,” Kok said. “NEWF strives to do just that by equipping African storytellers with industry-related skills and connections, while building their confidence and fostering creativity so they can add their unique perspective to the story. And now, by collaborating with the National Geographic Society to create Africa Refocused, we hope to expand our community by reaching storytellers across the continent.
How to change the story? You change storyteller.Christmas Kok
Each year, at least 25 NEWF Fellows are selected to participate in professional development workshops – called NEWF Labs – where industry experts provide specialized training in areas of storyteller interest and expertise such as certification diving, cinematography, music composition, science communication, editing and post-production.
In addition to helping fellows develop their skills, NEWF recognizes the importance of building a community for storytellers, conservationists, and scientists to help each other grow. They offer mentorship and networking opportunities, including the NEWF Fellows Summit and the NEWF Annual Congress, their flagship event in South Africa where storytellers come together, connect and collaborate. Additionally, they host NEWF Community Cinemas showcasing the Fellows’ films in schools and local communities to raise awareness of the challenges facing the natural world and identify calls to action to develop African solutions to these. problems. With support from Africa Refocused, NEWF plans to leverage these opportunities and expand its reach to become pan-African through storytelling hubs in every region of the continent.
“Science speaks to the brain, but storytelling goes to the heart,” said Kaitlin Yarnall, director of storytelling at the Society. “When African storytellers bring their perspective, talent and authenticity to the stories they create about the need to preserve their continent’s natural habitats and wildlife, there is no limit to the impact ‘they can have.’
Science speaks to the brain, but storytelling goes to the heart.Kaitlin Yarnall, Head of Storytelling
Africa Refocused is committed to assisting NEWF in its mission to remove barriers to entry, enable access, foster inclusion and create a culture of equity to ensure that African nature and wildlife stories are increasingly being told by a diverse network of African storytellers. Their voices are needed to engage, educate and advocate for the preservation of Africa’s nature, environment and wildlife. Together, NEWF and the National Geographic Society will support budding storytellers across the continent as they become industry leaders and pave the way for present and future generations to use the power of storytelling to have a impact.