CPUT’s Virtual Open Day is now open! Click here to visit >>>

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Promoting healing through storytelling

STORYTELLER: Dr Sindiwe Magona STORYTELLER: Dr Sindiwe Magona

Through Our Stories, Our Healing – a series of narratives in isiXhosa, English and Afrikaans – the Language Working Group (LWG) is shining a light on the struggles and resilience associated with mental health.

In South Africa, October is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month and internationally as Global Diversity Awareness Month.

“With celebrations of our South African Heritage only recently past, October is the perfect time for combining our heritage of storytelling and diverse languages to promote healing,” the LWG states.

“As humans, we are neurobiologically hardwired to tell ourselves stories all day long. When we think about buying groceries, preparing for work or studies or what will be for dinner, we make up short stories in our head about these activities.”

According to the Language Working Group, Jeremy Hsu found that “personal stories and gossip make up 65% of our conversations.”

“When stress and trauma touch our lives, these bad experiences impact not only our bodies but also our brains: The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves cast us as conquered, overwhelmed individuals. These stories then also affect how we treat ourselves and others,” the LWG states.

A programme run by the United Nations Refugee Agency, #MeWe, has found that these types of stories – arrested narratives – can lead to arrested development marked by:

A persistent disconnection of mind, heart, and breath.

Higher levels of stress and anxiety, and disassociation from the present.

Challenges in being empathetic, communicating needs, collaborating with others.

Limited capacities for being aware of one’s senses and inner resiliency assets.

In talking of her ambition to promote mental health awareness, the newly crowned Miss South Africa, Shudufadzo Musida, highlights the importance of not having a “conquered” mind: “For any change to come about in our society, we need to tackle the mind, the powerhouse. If the mind is conquered, we will go nowhere”.

“Stories can help us take back our minds and help us heal. In fact, a research by psychologist David Yeager has shown how stressed students’ cortisol levels and heart activity can be lowered once they read and learned to write stories about the possibility of change – change in their lives and the lives of others,” states the LWG.

Our Stories, Our Healing presents a collection of readings from: To My Children’s Children, a biographical book by award-winning author and scholar, Dr Sindiwe Magona. Besides being a prolific writer of children’s books, novels, stage plays and screenplays, Magona is a writer-in-residence at the University of the Western Cape, still works as an actor, motivational speaker and isiXhosa translator. However, she is quick to acknowledge that her most rewarding role was as a teacher because she considered working with students a sacred experience.

“We hope that Dr Magona’s narrations to her children’s children at CPUT will soothe your soul, but more than that, we hope that they might inspire action. You might need to tell your story for the first time or re-write it completely. Or it might be time to seek professional help,” adds the LWG.

Call the 24hr Higher Health helpline for counselling support 0800 36 36 36, email Student-counselling@cput.ac.za (or mzeles@cput.ac.za for staff) or contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) by emailing zane@sadag.org" or calling their 24hr helpline 0800 456 789.


Our Stories, Our Healing, Ons Stories, Ons Genesing / Amabali Wethu, Ukuphila Kwethu is a series of videos centred around the readings of Dr Sindiwe Magona or Nomabali, as she prefers to be called. Here she chats to three CPUT students Emmerencia Karools, Ayapha Tshapa and Nosiphe Xego about our South African heritage, our collective mental health and dealing with the pandemic. The students described this encounter as “funny”, “inspirational” and a powerful reminder to take care of ourselves. Watch the discussion below


In the video below, accompanied by audio translations in isiXhosa and Afrikaans, Sindiwe Magona recounts how something bad can be made better by something even worse. This reading from To My Children’s Children considers how privilege comes with responsibility and how mishaps are the shadow of every good fortune. To listen to the translations click on this link - https://soundcloud.com/user-16148631-671233361/sets/our-stories-our-healing-ons-stories-ons-genesing-amabali-wethu-ukuphila-kwethu/s-f6q0HIJGnvP

In the video below, accompanied by audio translations in isiXhosa and Afrikaans, Sindiwe Magona reads from To My Children’s Children, reflecting on the vast differences between her traditional upbringing and the modern world, how different races were treated in the Apartheid era, and between girlhood and boyhood. The translations can be listened to at the following link - https://soundcloud.com/user-16148631-671233361/sets/video-4-translations/s-e99rwaAQQj9

Written by Ilse Fredericks

Email: Frederickskennediji@cput.ac.za