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The Power of Storytelling by Joy Ngoma

Updated: Nov 2, 2022

On October 12, Joy Ngoma visited the American Academy and had a meeting with Juniors. She talked to them about the power of storytelling as a tool for healing. We were curious as to why she chose to talk about this topic, to which she replied that she is very sensitive with countries like Georgia and South Africa (where she’s from) that have gone through so much. “Victims always get to tell a story, and a lot of people are still struggling to tell modern Georgian stories. It’s all about what happened in the past, and I feel that we can only move on from something this traumatic if we heal, and I think Georgia has not started this healing process.” Joy is also the granddaughter of Desmond Tutu, a South African bishop and human rights activist. She mentioned that her grandfather inspired people to talk about their traumatic experiences so that they could start to heal.

“People need to realise that their feelings are valid. Some people think that their pain is too small, but we need to make them feel that no, their feelings are valid and acknowledged. That topic is close to my heart and I felt that you guys, our new generation, would be interested in how to spread awareness about your country and its problems.” We all carry stories with us - it shows our culture, our surroundings, our language, and our existence. This decision rests on your voice which tells your story - the ones choose to carry, Joy told the audience. These stories matter, as without voicing these stories, someone else will tell your stories for you and take away your tool of power. As Joy says “No one gets to tell you who you are - only you can decide that.”

Joy Ngoma at GZAAT

At the meeting, two sides of social media were discussed: how it is powerful on one side, as we show people the sides of ours that we want them to see. On the other side, how much harm and negative comments it brings - people allow themselves to judge and critique us. This discussion led to the idea that with negative and positive sides of storytelling, in this case sharing information on social media, eventually forms society. As Joy said, “ I am who I am because you are who you are.” At the meeting, with Joy’s help, the audience tried to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, leading to the conclusion that someone, who is well in his mind and happy with his life, will not wake up in the morning and decide to be horrible to other people that day. Empathy was discussed alongside this, as a response to bullying. Instead of bullying, have empathy, and be kind.

After the meeting, we got a chance to ask her questions privately. As mentioned, her grandfather, Desmond Tutu campaigned internationally for human rights. Since Tutu encouraged millions of people to speak up, we asked Joy if her grandfather was the reason why she started being an activist, which she partly denied. “I think you are born to do a certain job, you have a special gift. For some people, it's writing and others singing, and for as long as I remember I have always been involved with activism, and it just happens that I have a family that supports that and it has influenced me to do my job better”.

Meeting with Joy was a pleasure for all juniors. Her words on our voices, stories, and individualism were close to our interests. Joy’s message to us was, as she said: “Own your crown and wear it proudly!”

Edited by: Natalia Tutberidze

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