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'Africa is not a country': Students' photo campaign breaks down stereotypes

By Teo Kermeliotis, for CNN
February 7, 2014 -- Updated 1045 GMT (1845 HKT)
The African Students Association of Ithaca College in New York has launched a photo campaign called "The Real Africa: Fight the Stereotype." The African Students Association of Ithaca College in New York has launched a photo campaign called "The Real Africa: Fight the Stereotype."
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Students dispelling misconceptions
Students dispelling misconceptions
Students dispelling misconceptions
Students dispelling misconceptions
Students dispelling misconceptions
Students dispelling misconceptions
Students dispelling misconceptions
Students dispelling misconceptions
Students dispelling misconceptions
Students dispelling misconceptions
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A group of students have launched a campaign to break down stereotypes about Africa
  • The campaign features images of students wrapped in the flag of their country
  • The photographs are accompanied by quotes debunking myths about Africa

(CNN) -- 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 their 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.

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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 PR 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 would 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."

What we wanted to do was embrace the individual flags of the countries of Africa.
Rita Bunatal, African Students Association, Ithaca College

"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 campus-wide, but also world-wide," says Bunatal.

Click through the gallery above to see the students' campaign.

READ THIS: Europe in ashes, Africa an oasis?

READ THIS: African slave traditions live on in U.S.

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