Siyanda Mohutsiwa: How Young Africans Found A Voice On Twitter

March 25, 2016  |  

Siyanda Mohutsiwa Source: Ted.com

Siyanda Mohutsiwa Source: Ted.com

What can a young woman with an idea, an Internet connection and a bit of creativity achieve? That’s all Siyanda Mohutsiwa needed to unite young African voices in a new way. Hear how Mohutsiwa and other young people across the continent are using social media to overcome borders and circumstance, accessing something they have long had to violently take: a voice.

When her hashtag #IfAfricaWasABar went viral, young Botswana writer Siyanda Mohutsiwa, age 22, triggered a lighthearted but electrifying discussion of some serious African issues.

“It began with one question: If Africa was a bar, what would your country be drinking or doing? I kicked it off with a guess about South Africa, which wasn’t exactly according to the rules because South Africa’s not my country. But alluding to the country’s continual attempts to build a postracial society after being ravaged for decades by apartheid, I tweeted, #ifafricawasabar South Africa would be drinking all kinds of alcohol and begging them to get along in its stomach.

And then I waited. And then I had that funny feeling where I wondered if I crossed the line. So, I sent out a few other tweets about my own country and a few other African countries I’m familiar with. And then I waited again, but this time I read through almost every tweet I had ever tweeted to convince myself, no, to remind myself that I’m really funny and that if nobody gets it, that’s fine.

But luckily, I didn’t have to do that for very long. Very soon, people were participating. In fact, by the end of that week in July, the hashtag #ifafricawasabar would have garnered around 60,000 tweets, lit up the continent and made its way to publications all over the world.”

Why you should listen

Blogger, humorist and math student Siyanda Mohutsiwa explores African topics both weighty (reviving Pan­Africanism) and witty (“5 things NOT to say when trying to seduce an Afrikaner”). Her columns for African media outlets like the Mail & Guardian, Za News, and her own website Siyanda Writes have gained a loyal following.

But when Mohutsiwa’s hashtag #IfAfricaWasABar exploded on Twitter, the viral thread (which pondered the hypothetical bar mannerisms of various African nations) became a platform for everyday Africans to unite in a playful dialogue on national differences, and helped turn Mohutsiwa into a social media star.

Learn more about Siyanda Mohutsiwa at Ted.com here.

Trending on MadameNoire

Comment Disclaimer: Comments that contain profane or derogatory language, video links or exceed 200 words will require approval by a moderator before appearing in the comment section. XOXO-MN