Nigerian novelist and orator Chimamanda Adichie once expressed to an audience at a TED talk in 2009 her ideas on the power of storytelling. She spoke about the danger that one has when exposed to only a single story, and left her audience with this notion: “When we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”
In this year’s fourth annual TEDxOhioStateUniversity event, students and faculty will perform on a similar platform to that of Adichie’s, speaking on this year’s theme of The Human Narrative.
Emmanuel Dzotsi, a fourth-year in political science and strategic communication, is one of these featured speakers who plans to share his own ideas on the importance of storytelling.
“I’m half-Ghanaian and half-Dominican,” Dzotsi said. “I come from a background where, both in Africa and in the Caribbean, storytelling is extremely important.”
Although Dzotsi calls Ohio his home now, his mixed British accent hints at his time spent living in England and Belgium as a child. He credited his cultural upbringing as a foundation for his desire to share stories.
“Storytellers in these different traditions are actually some of the most revered people in their communities,” he said. “As a child, I was always told these stories and I think that it’s something — whether it be in stories like films or through art or through music — these things are extremely important, not just in terms of decreasing stress, but communicating with each other about our dreams, our inspirations, our hopes, our fears.”
Dzotsi’s passion for storytelling allowed him the opportunity to create a film titled “Steal Away,” which premiered at the Gateway Film Center in November.
The film tells the story of a janitor who falls in love with a thief and the implications that follow that relationship.
“I was always intrigued by this notion of ‘the other,’ of that person who had stolen something from you,” Dzotsi said of the inspiration behind his film. “I thought, what if you knew the person that had stolen from you? What if you became friends with them eventually, or what if you even dated them?”
Dzotsi will explore this very topic during his speech on Saturday.
Director of content for this year’s TEDxOSU, Laveena Sehgal, a fourth-year in neuroscience, said Dzotsi’s passion is a main factor in him being a student speaker at this year’s event.
“How many undergraduates make their own film, you know?” Sehgal said. “He told a really compelling story about how his life experiences had shaped his desire to share this narrative at TEDx.”
Shivang Patel, the event’s curator and a third-year in neuroscience, agreed with Sehgal.
“You don’t see many students making actual films,” Patel said. “It’s sometimes hard to find students who want to talk about all the cool stuff they are doing.”
Patel said Emmanuel’s story directly correlated to the “human narrative” platform at TEDxOSU.
“We’re trying to cover ideas and stories and performances that capture the human spirit and this thread of a collective story that binds us all together. Emmanuel’s idea was definitely something unique that fit in well,” Patel said.
In addition to filmmaking, Dzotsi also uses his creative talents as a mellophone player for the OSU marching band. Dzotsi is also the finance director for the Collegiate Council on World Affairs, a contributor to the student-run political science publication, The Algerian, and facilitator of the “Petrichor,” a production company and multimedia website for the arts currently in its infancy.
“In all of my endeavors, I’ve always been fascinated by the element of performance and by the element of telling some sort of story,” Dzotsi said. “In my experiences at Ohio State, whether it be putting on fantastic halftime shows with the band or advocating on behalf on students with USG like I did my first two years here, it’s something that I’ve always enjoyed.”
Sehgal gave advice to those hoping to follow in Dzotsi’s footsteps and share their own ideas on a platform like TEDx.
“Be authentically yourself,” Seghal said. “What’s your idea that’s worth spreading? What’s the impact you want to leave with the Buckeye community and a global audience and why? What shapes that desire? This is what we want to know. We all have a story to tell.”