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It’s hard to tell where our collective misconceptions around Africa came from.

Pictured: Not a country. Image by NASA/Wikimedia Commons.

Whether it's western privilege or something else altogether, we’ve been getting Africa wrong for a really long time. In media, movies, and TV, the western world is guilty of talking about Africa as if it is a homogenous place filled with only war, famine, disease, and large aggressive animals ready to murder. Honestly, it's become embarrassing. 


South African comedian and "The Daily Show" host Trevor Noah is here with the truth. GIF from Comedy Central.

If your understanding of Africa started and stopped with "The Lion King," here's a brief overview.

Africa — the world’s second largest continent — is home to 55 countries and a full one-seventh of the world’s population. It’s so large that if America were superimposed on top of it, the lower 48 states would only cover about one-third of the continent, about the size of the Sahara desert. 

Africa contains multitudes — dozens of languages and nationalities, climates ranging from desert to jungle. There are tiny villages and bustling metropolitan cities with infrastructure rivaling any in the developed world. Africa is modern and ancient, but mostly it’s everything in between — and this in-between is where some of the most fascinating and authentically African stories are found.

In 2012, Peter DiCampo and Austin Merrill started a Tumblr named Everyday Africa to fight back against media and cultural stereotypes of the continent.

Beryl and Peter got married in August 2014 in their hometown of Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I remember how Beryl shared with me how Peter pursued her for many years. Both were away – she studied in South Africa and he had a job in Canada – but not a day went by without contact between them. His persistence paid of as Beryl realized what a great guy Peter is. They got married. Their wedding had several parts to it – a combination of local tradition as well as western influence. Their celebration was spread over several days. I photographed their wedding portraits around the town and we stopped by to shoot in some of the most familiar places - like in here the marketplace in Bukavu. It will soon be two years since this day and I just found out that Beryl and Peter just recently had their first child! Cheers to them and their growing family. Bukavu, South Kivu, Democratic Republic Of Congo. Photo by Jana Asenbrennerova @asenbrenenrova #drc #drcongo #africa #wedding #love #bukavu #asenbrennerova

A photo posted by Everyday Africa (@everydayafrica) on

In their experience, conventional media only talked about an Africa ravaged by disease, war, and famine. The reality they knew — through years of working and living on the continent — was very different and much more interesting.

Several times a week, Everyday Africa’s Instagram shares photos of real African life. There are people, places, art, fashion, sports, food, culture, and architecture — most of the images are captured with cellphone cameras.

Look through the stream — or its photojournalist database — long enough, and you’ll notice how familiar it all feels. People shop for groceries; they get their hair done; they skateboard, ride bikes, go to work. At a time when politicians are trying to get elected by sowing fear of immigrants and the unknown in other continents, it is refreshing and comforting to see how similar — and sometimes mundane — our daily lives really are. 

Three years later, the boundary pushing that started with Everyday Africa hasn’t stopped.

Bonteheuwel, a so-called coloured township, was created to house people of mixed descent, many of whom were victims of forced removals form areas that were declared "whites only" under the Apartheid government's Group Areas Act. Despite the fact that my parents both grew up in Bonteheuwel, today was the first time I properly learned about Ashley Kriel through watching Nadine Cloete's documentary Action Kommondant. He was a tireless political organiser during South Africa's state of emergency, the dark years of the 1980s. He was known for his powerful speeches and his magnetic personality. He was an uMkhonto we Sizwe soldier, 20 years of age when he was murdered by the Apartheid police. Role models are often cited as lacking in the townships so it is fitting that the poster is titled "Ashley Kriel, The pride of Bonteheuwel". Photograph by Barry Christianson @thesestreetsza #thesestreetsza #bonteheuwel #capetown #southafrica #ashleykriel #actionkommondant #everydayeverywhere #everydayafrica

A photo posted by Everyday Africa (@everydayafrica) on

Photos from Everyday Africa have been featured in Time Magazine, The Guardian, and The New Yorker, among others. The site also inspired a student curriculum from the Pulitzer Center, where kids can explore how the photos challenge their impressions of Africa, and then they can take a series of photos of their own daily life.

Everyday Africa has also become part of a larger network of "Everyday" sites. There’s Everyday Eastern Europe, Everyday Bronx, Everyday Mumbai — all with their own networks of contributors and fans. 

As DiCampo said in 2013, “I want people to use this anywhere they feel it’s needed to change people’s perceptions. Whether that’s a continent, a country, a city or a neighborhood, it’s really up to the person who has chosen to take that on.”

Art mirrors life! In passing this morning on Ngor beach. Photo by @malinfezehai #dakar #senegal

A photo posted by Everyday Africa (@everydayafrica) on

The images we see of our world define how we think of it. Every photo Everyday Africa's network of photographers posts helps reframe western narratives about its subject.

There will always be war and famine in our world. By virtue of its size and population alone, Africa will inevitably be home to some of that. Projects like Everyday Africa are helping ensure that isn't the only story the rest of the world sees. 

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