Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Q&A with Fahad Siddiqui




Fahad Siddiqui is the co-founder of the Our Story Media Group, which produced the new children's picture book Mansa Musa: The Richest Man in History.


Q: What inspired you to create this picture book biography of Mansa Musa, who ruled the Mali empire in the 14th century?


A: The inspiration behind creating this book about Mansa Musa stems from good old fashioned ignorance. Myself and some of my co-founders were completely unaware of this person’s existence and that in itself was alarming to us. We concluded that if we had not heard of him, we were certain there were others who were likely to be unaware.


Mansa Musa’s story was the spark for starting Our Story Media Group, which we founded on a deep belief in the importance of a global perspective on human achievements.

We ultimately decided to use the power of storytelling to get this information to the rest of the world. Our goal is to bring to life the incredible stories of historical figures, like Mansa Musa, in a way that captivates young minds and sparks their curiosity about the world.


Q: How did you research his life, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?


A: Researching Mansa Musa's life was a fascinating journey. We delved into various historical texts, primary sources, and consulted with experts to ensure accuracy.


What surprised me the most was the sheer richness of Mansa Musa's legacy which included his generosity. His impact on the world was profound, yet his story is often overlooked. It made me realize the importance of global history – not just a selective and partial view – in fostering a more equitable society.

Q: What do you think the illustrations add to the book?


A: The illustrations in the book play a crucial role in enhancing the narrative. We believe that powerful visuals can bring history to life and create a more immersive experience for young readers. It's not just about conveying information; it's about sparking imagination and curiosity through art.


Q: What do you hope kids take away from Mansa Musa’s life story?


A: From Mansa Musa's life story, we hope kids (and adults) take away the importance of embracing diverse perspectives. Understanding our collective human history helps break down stereotypes and promotes a more inclusive worldview.


Multicultural education, as advocated by the National Council for Social Studies, fosters critical thinking skills and encourages children to question their assumptions and biases.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Currently, we are working on the next installment – a book on Shen Kuo, a remarkable Chinese figure from the 2nd Song Dynasty. He discovered True North and Climate Change and had recorded many of his ideas in “Dream Pool” essays; his story adds another layer to the tapestry of global history.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Beyond Mansa Musa and Shen Kuo, we're launching a new series called "The Secret Alien Diaries." In this series, we focus on building life skills and encouraging positive habits through engaging stories and activities.


We believe that in the information age, schools need to adapt to a more skills-based and active learning approach to effectively teach and learn.


Our ultimate goal is to provide practical and holistic educational content for the next generation. We're passionate about shaping a future where young minds are not just filled with knowledge but equipped with the skills and perspectives needed to thrive in an ever-changing world.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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