Chao Tayiana Maina is an African historian and Dan David Prize winner who is uncovering buried and overlooked segments of Kenya’s history under the colonial era.
The article, “How a Headstrong Historian is Rewriting Kenya’s Colonial History,” by Kenyan journalist Carlos Mureithi, highlights Chao’s work in unearthing this hidden and suppressed history, using technology to help make this information accessible to a wider audience.
Published in the Christian Science Monitor in January 2023, this article about Chao was recently recognised in first place in the Open the Knowledge Journalism Awards, a new initiative from the Wikimedia Foundation, the global non profit that hosts Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.
The awards aim to recognize the essential role journalists play in creating well-researched articles that volunteer editors can use as source materials to develop content on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.
Their work helps to grow the knowledge base on one of the world’s most visited websites, so that it is more reflective of the topics, events and people that influence the understanding of culture and history through the ages.
In conversation about the article at a recent event, Carlos Mureithi told us that through this story, he had hoped to highlight the importance of filling historical knowledge gaps, to help promote an awareness and understanding of the country’s past.
He also recognised the importance of amplifying the voices of African changemakers such as Chao on the global stage, who are opening up knowledge through pioneering projects.
Africans and topics about Africa remain obscure on Wikipedia. This is due to the unavailability of credible, well researched, and reliable sources that can help editors to create Wikipedia articles.
Chao, the historian who features in Mureithi’s article, is also one of many Africans who remain undocumented on platforms such as Wikipedia. Not enough has been written about them in the public domain to warrant an article, as part of the site’s policy on notability criteria.
WikiProject Africa, an initiative that tracks all knowledge linked to the African continent on Wikipedia, shows that only 1.5% of articles on the English version of the online encyclopedia are about Africa.
A deeper look also shows that only 504 of all articles about Africa have been classified as good, meaning they meet the site’s core editorial standards, are well written with a neutral point of view, contain factually accurate and verifiable information, are broad in coverage and illustrated with relevant images.
Media coverage that showcases diverse perspectives is vital in helping to ensure a full and representative view of Africa’s culture and history.
Africa is a mosaic of diverse countries, each with its own unique culture, history, and challenges.
Every corner of Africa has a story to tell; from the bustling markets of Lagos to the serene landscapes of Rwanda. However, this rich tapestry of cultures, languages and traditions remains hidden from view. In the media, a wealth of positive news and developments about the continent often go unwritten.
Stories about economic growth and technological advancement for example, seldom make it into the headlines.
At this year’s Journalism Awards, Nigerian journalist, Osaruonamen Ibizugbe told us:
“I firmly believe that the media is responsible for telling and amplifying African tales to influence narratives through its agenda-setting role. As a result, it is critical for journalists to ensure a more inclusive and balanced portrayal of varied voices and experiences in their media reporting, encouraging greater understanding and societal change in the process. Who will tell our African stories if we don’t?”
Journalists hold the key to unlocking a more diverse and inclusive narrative of Africa. We call on them to help promote diversity, equity and inclusion in their reporting to help us present a richer, and more accurate narrative of Africa in the global knowledge landscape.
[Featured Image Credit]