American stereotypes of Africa and Africans run the gamut, but over the last century, it is safe to say that more people have viewed it as the land of famine, warlords, tragedy and disaster, than the land of opportunity. Ever since the wildly viral Kony 2012 video played right into that with its characterization of the dangers that people, especially women and children, face in one part of Africa thanks to the notoriously violent Kony.
The people behind Africa.com wanted to bring about better understanding of those who have been misunderstood for so long. Africa is a big continent and they wanted to showcase another side to it. People’s impressions of Africa are all in the form of mental images based on pictures we have seen, more so than text we have read.
How best to change the image of Africa? They decided to produce a 30-minute video called Africa Straight Up as part of the long process of reframing people’s perceptions of Africa. The video has interviews with some of Africa’s leading lights in literature, music, politics and so forth, along with scenes of everyday people living successful, productive lives not all too terribly different from urban dwellers in U.S. cities. It strives to tell a new story of Africa today, using video clips mixed with still shots to break stereotypes.
This video storytelling approach reinforces the power of audio and visuals combined to set a new – in this case, uplifting – frame for whatever story your camera focuses on. Check out the project Mama Hope as well for a great example of a visual approach to changing American views of African men.