Zanele Hartmann and Sharon Gabie

Storytelling serves as a means of recording and expressing feelings, perspectives, and responses of ones’ lived experiences and environment (Tuwe, 2016). The spoken word has served as a significant avenue for self-awareness, fostering connections, and maintaining a balance among the physical, emotional, and environmental aspects of existence. Njogu (2009) states that, “...story telling occupies a natural role in many African cultures, it has the potential of functioning as a key strategy for promotion of health and well-being”. 

The examination of well-being frequently adopts a Western viewpoint, encompassing definitions and measurements. Nevertheless, this approach overlooks the socio-cultural nuances that are vital for the subjective understanding of well-being amongst individuals or communities. What is necessary to point out is that in African indigenous cultures, the process of healing is a collective endeavour that encompasses the entirety of the individual, their family, and the community.

In their June article, published by the Conversation, Boehmer, Kawanu, and Davies (2020), argued that if we believe in the significance of stories, then it is essential to consider not only the content of the stories we tell but also how they are accessed. Furthermore, when people are empowered by narratives that resonate with their experiences, there’s a strong argument for policymakers and researchers in Africa to take action, ensuring that a greater variety of stories and storytelling resources are accessible to all. Below, we share some of the narratives from our research in the town of Keetmashoop in south-eastern Namibia.

As Mr. Freyer stood on the jetty that day in 1979, as an eighteen-year-old, gazing out at the boundless ocean, existential questions about life and his place in the world weighed heavily on his mind. When asked questions about the time he grew up and the ocean, it was as though a curtain was pulled back to unleash the memory of this fateful day. He started his response by saying,

Yoh! now you're awakening something in me. Yes, I was in 1978 no 1979, I wanted to leave school. I passed standard 8, and that time your name still appeared in the newspaper if you passed, and I was one of five or six who passed out of a class of almost 30 children, and right there I decided I wanted to become a policeman or a security. Strangely enough, I applied to Rosing Uran, it was a uranium mine, and they approved me and said I can come, but it's December and we can't give you a PTO now. It was Permission to Occupy on the train. Coincidentally, my cousin's husband was a teacher and they got free tickets during that time. We called it a free pass on the train. Every December, teachers got free tickets. The two of them gave me their free tickets, so I could travel in second class, to Swakopmund to start the work at Rosing.

The day I got there it is so foggy and gloomy. I locked my things on the station and one thing stuck in my mind. I must get to the sea. I have never seen the sea in my life. Remember I am 18-years-old, never seen the sea, and I thought, now how will it be? Yes, the old people said you should go and greet the sea, and you should first put some of the water on your hands and on your face, and you should not just walk in. I don't know, I got the feeling, everyone who was on the beach that day must’ve seen, I don't know the circumstances or the environment. But I didn't care, it did not bother me what was going on there. I then went to the sea and thought a lot and realised as I walked on the jetty, after I first watched what everyone was doing. I didn't have a clue what was going on there. I walked on the jetty, saw the sea, and wondered where it ends and what it is like. […] I had time on my side, because it was a Sunday and I had to start work on Monday. That day was so good to me and so fulfilling for me, so of inspiring, that I realised, but this job that I am going to on Monday, is to sit at the gate and lift a post and close it (illustrating how he would work). I realised; I am not born for this I did not lay in the crib for this. Honestly, if you look at the people who [raised] me up, these were decent people and people who had plans for me.

The stark contrast between the awe-inspiring experience at the sea and the mundane  work routine of the uranium mine highlights the theme of self-discovery and authenticity. Despite societal expectations and familial obligations, Mr. Freyer’s realisation that he is "not born for this" speaks volumes about the inner yearning for purpose and fulfilment.

The story of Mr. Freyer also captures the tension between individual dreams and societal norms, showcasing the transformative power of personal epiphanies. Through the story of Mr. Freyer, we are reminded of the importance of introspection, exploration, and staying true to oneself in the pursuit of happiness. It entails embracing uncertainty, seeking out new experiences, and remaining steadfast in one's authenticity, self-discovery, and the timeless human quest for meaning and belonging, all relating to wellbeing.





Boehmer, E., Kawanu, Z. & Davies, A. (2020). Better access to stories can improve adolescent

lives in Africa. The Conversation, 23 June 2020. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 15 April 2024].


Njogu, K. (2009). Rekindling Efficacy: Story Telling for Health. In Kimani Njogu & John F.M.  

Middleton. eds. Media and Identity in Africa. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Available from:

[Accessed: 15 April 2024].


Tuwe, K. (2016). The African oral tradition paradigm of storytelling as a methodological

framework: Employment experiences for African communities in New Zealand. In African studies association of Australasia and the Pacific (AFSAAP) proceedings of the 38th AFSAAP conference: 21st century tensions and transformation in Africa. Deakin University.

Posted on 20 April 2024 12:42:53

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