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African Students Tackle Stereotypes of Continent With Photo Campaign

They say there are no stupid questions — or are there?

How about, “Do you speak African?” Or, “What is Africa’s flag?”

Yes, these are quite ludicrous. Tired of regularly having to answer questions like these, a group of U.S.-based African students has launched a photo campaign in a bid to dispel misconceptions about the continent.

Called “The Real Africa: Fight the Stereotype,” the social media initiative aims to educate and raise awareness about the common stereotypes surrounding Africa and its people — misunderstandings like Africa being a homogenous entity rather than a diverse continent of more than 50 countries.

The campaign features striking images of the members of the African Students Association of New York’s Ithaca College wrapped in different African flags or holding them proudly.

“What we wanted to do was embrace the individual flags of the countries of Africa,” says Rita Bunatal, head of  public relations for the organization. “We wanted to show the beauty and the power of the flag. We also wanted to break one of the biggest misconceptions about the continent, which is that Africa is a country,” she adds.

For each photograph, the posing students, aged 18 to 21, were also asked to come up with simple but powerful quotes that would disprove the ignorant and offensive remarks they often hear.

As a result, the images boast statements like “Africans do not all look alike;” “Africans don’t need to be saved;” “Africa is not a country;” and “Africa is not a land filled with diseases.”

In addition, the campaign is saturated with educational facts that are designed to strengthen the students’ quotes — “I don’t speak ‘African’ because ‘African’ is not a language” says one student, his declaration accompanied by the fact that “there are an estimated 2,000 languages spoken in Africa.”

“We wanted to give facts, to correct, to give knowledge,” says Bunatal, “trying to educate and stop people from saying these other things.”

The African Students Association of Ithaca College first posted their photo campaign on CNN’s iReport platform on January 20. Since then, some 5,000 people have viewed the photos and more than 2,000 have shared them on Facebook.

“The simplest actions can create awareness and we are hoping to do this not only campuswide, but also worldwide,” says Bunatal.


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