For Sierra Leonan-Gambian LaMin SaWaneh, a picture is certainly worth a thousand words. Since July 2012, SaWaneh posts unique pictures of the African continent for the greatest joy of his 200,000 Facebook fans (and counting).
|LaMin SaWaneh posing with Ruby Johnson, Miss Sierra Leone-USA (2012-2014) (Photo: SaWaneh)|
"I started Howiviewafrica because I was angry of all the negative images I saw in the media." SaWaneh said. "I received outrageous questions from classmates, friends and people who did not know anything about the African continent."
Following the late Chinua Achebe's advice, "If you don't like someone's story, write your own," SaWaneh said that the world will see the true beauty of the African continent only when Africans will take the responsibility to do so.
"The African continent is portrayed negatively because it is not the Western media's job to tell our stories," SaWaneh said. "It is up to Africans to tell their own."
Before setting up the Facebook Howiviewafrica which now has over 200 000 fans, SaWaneh first created a personal Tumblr blog How-I-View-Africa. He said that the overwhelming support and love he received from his Tumblr fans led him to choose Facebook as the best medium to reach a larger crowd.
"Sadly being an African in America and being an African-American in America is looked upon as we're from two different planets," SaWaneh wrote on Tumblr.
Dedicated to let the world knows how he views Africa, SaWaneh also has an Instagram page that contains beautiful pictures related to the African continent. If searching for the 'right' photos on the web has been the main challenge for SaWaneh, the strong positive feedback received from Howiviewafrica fans remains his greatest reward.
|A proud father holding his child. (Photo: Howiviewafrica)|
Howiviewafrica fans who now contribute to the page by sending their views and pictures, told SaWaneh that his work had an impact on their lives and gave them a new perspective of Africa.
"The reason why people are so attracted to the Howiviewafrica Facebook page is because I show an Africa they have never seen before," SaWaneh said. "I make sure to represent every country, to bring up different topics dealing with the African continent so fans could exchange viewpoints or gain a better a better understanding."
SaWaneh, who is currently an Economic and Finance college student at Wayland Baptist University, aims to change minds and to inspire next generations through his social media activism. He believes he has accomplished a lot within a short amount of time.
"Not only I learned how to blog but also I realized how little I knew about other African nations," SaWaneh said. "The blog has helped me to gain a sense of purpose and to be a voice for my people."
This college student dreams of an Africa where each country will be truly free and developed, an Africa where Africans leaders will take a stand from Western interference and made decisions that will benefit their people first. For himself, SaWaneh intends to educate himself and to bring joy and happiness to others.
|It's up to Africans to tell their own stories, SaWaneh said. (Photo: SaWaneh)|
Fleeing Sierra Leone's civil war, LaMin SaWaneh, his sister and his nephews moved to the United States in 1999. SaWaneh said he came for a chance to make a life for himself, to get an education and to go back to do the same for his family, others and his country.
"Africans need to be ambassadors for their respective countries and for the continent," SaWaneh said. "No matter where an African is, Africa will always be with the individual. So every African should represent the continent well. After all, Africa is the beginning. Africa is home. Africa is my heart. Africa is the future."