Arriving in America as a young college student, Chimamanda Adichie realised that she was viewed no longer within her Nigerian middle-class context, but as the ‘other’ – an African. The depth of her own culture was reduced by those around her to a two dimensional cut-out, where in America a single story dominated of beautiful sub-saharan landscapes…. with extremely poor people. Of her new college roommate Chimamanda says, ‘she felt sorry for me before she met me’, with no possibility of a connection as human equals until Chimamanda shared the many and varied stories of her homeland. Conversely, she saw her own susceptibility to the ‘one story’, assuming the American narrative of Mexican immigration to be the one true story.
Single stories create stereotypes, making one story the only story, where difference is emphasised rather than connection. Believing the single story robs people of the dignity of a fully rounded identity.
Last week we celebrated the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, a pivotal story in our nation’s history. Depending on what we hear or understand about this founding document, we may live within a narrow story where a legal transaction occurred with little bearing on our present day, or we may live in the many stories where men and women of outstanding character, and of different nations, came together in covenant; declaring he iwi tatou – we are now one people.
Jesus, the master story-teller, tells many varied stories to help us understand the Kingdom of God. It is like a seed, it is a like a landowner, a woman losing a coin, a shepherd, a father. It is a multi-faceted, many storied, deep mystery that Christ invites us into. In all things, let us be people of the many stories.
Following is a link to Chimamanda’s talk which, although long, is well worth watching.
This photo was taken in Pemba, Mozambique in 2007. Someone once told me it’s not an authentically African picture, with iron roofs, power lines, and a pick up truck in the foreground. This is a true to life picture of my time in Mozambique, evoking many wonderful stories and challenging my narrative even today. Enjoy.