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From rock painting to blogging

By Melissa Gardiner

We assume that First World countries introduced social media tools, such as blogging and digital storytelling, to Africa. In his speech “From rock paintings to mental acrobatics”, Ndesanjo Macha kicked off the 2007 Digital Citizen Indaba in Grahamstown on Sunday saying that Africa already had social media before the emergence of the digital age. Africa has a strong tradition of collective storytelling, of taking thoughts and ideas and putting them in a public space. In prehistoric times, Africans used rock paintings to bring their thoughts into the public space. In essence, rock painters were the bloggers of their time; rocks were their blogs.

Africa is making great strides in online social media through predominantly mobile technology. Macha said that social media and blogs are specifically relevant to Africa, comparing so-called “Western” online social media with age-old African concepts. Wikipedia, for example, is an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. It is a collaborative tool to create and share knowledge, which is not a new idea to Africans. Sites like Free Culture allow people to own the means and processes of production. Macha says this concept is linked closely to the African belief of “ubuntu”, meaning “I am, because you are”.

Macha highlighted issues that will be dealt throughout the DCI, including the creation and expression of our individual and collective African identies. For Africa, Macha emphasises the potential of social media to build communities. For Africa truly to take advantage of social media, specifically the blogosphere, Macha says “as the collective [Africans] are more”. Just as rock painters used the tools they had available to them to share their thoughts and ideas with their communities, so Africans can use the tools of the digital age — that is, blogging — to share their stories with the globe.

Gardiner is a student in the New Media Lab at Rhodes University


  • People have an innate need and desire to communicate. Be part of the great conversation and join us as we discuss issues around blogging, social networking and cyber identity raised at the second Digital Citizen Indaba, held on 9 September 2007 in Grahamstown, South Africa. Catch a detailed overview of the event on Wiki


  1. Bridget McNulty Bridget McNulty 9 September 2007

    I was initially very hesitant about blogging (why would anyone want to read my ramblings?) but it has to be said that the potential to create mass-conversation about topics that you’re passionate about is unrivalled.
    Perhaps blogging will be the ubuntu glue of the modern age, as you say…

  2. BRE BRE 10 September 2007

    I would have missed the opening of the 2nd Annual Digital Citzen Indaba 2007 if it were not for references about this conference I found today in posts from Africa’s top blog authors (i.e. Duadi Were of Mentalacrobatics). The idea of publishing a conference wiki and the fact that the DCI 2007 blog is being hosted & published by South Africa’s Mail & Guardian Online is just excellent.

    We’re following you here in the Sphere in Germany so “bust it out” at the DCI 2007 in Grahamstown, South Africa. Great job of organization and support from the New Media Lab folks at Rhodes University School of Journalism.

  3. bantugbro bantugbro 14 September 2007

    Sawa sawa kijana naona umewapatia changamoto nzuri kwani we will never reach where we are going if we dont want to aknowledge where we came from..

  4. kamala lutatinisibwa kamala lutatinisibwa 18 September 2007

    yap, this is great, it made even some young tanzanian like me to interest in iformation sharing throuh the net where am also bloging, this is the great idea and macha is a roll model for we young bloggers.

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