Name: Ijafiada Benhirki
Country Representing: Nigeria
what inspired you to enter the ultimate storyteller contest?
I was inspired by fear, as ironic as it may sound. Each country on our continent has a thousand and one challenges, however in my country, things as basic as the right to live or the right to speak freely is considered treason. It is masked well beneath the façade of democracy.
Speaking our reality in any form that criticizes our government is a ‘threat’ to the state. I choose to speak the truth in the face of it, come what may. Entering the Ultimate Storyteller Contest for me is a rare privilege and I believe that every voice matters. And thanks to this platform, I finally have the courage to want to be heard.
what does storytelling mean to you?
I sometimes imagine what life might look like if I couldn’t speak. If I didn’t have a voice for some reason, either by nature’s choice or some other doing. There are many in that category, but we should never call them disadvantaged because every single person under the heavens has a story to tell. An artist, a songwriter, a doctor, nurse, or farmer…basically, everyone!
Storytelling to me is living out loud and by that, I mean sharing and living my life like tomorrow doesn’t exist and isn’t guaranteed (which of course, it isn’t). It’s in the memories you hold dear to your heart, the pictures you share, post or comment on, the travel experience, the marches and protests and my favorite of the lot — it’s in the stroke of a pen.
why did you choose the story you told in your first submission?
I chose this particular story because for the longest time, I have battled post-traumatic stress disorder. And while I don’t have actual battle scars; staring death in the face, being unsure of my next breath – it is something I have lived with since the sad encounter on that fateful day in 2018. Africans, or should I say Nigerians, don’t really believe in counselling or outlets that let your feelings show. That doesn’t really fly where I’m from so I’ve had to pretend for the longest time that I was okay. But I know that many Nigerians like myself live that horrible reality each day, especially in recent times when crime rate has been on the increase. No one is safe.
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