Vivian Taabu Okumu, or Swiri Nyar Kano as she prefers to be called, isn’t your everyday content creator. The Microbiology and Biotechnology graduate wears many crowns, describing herself as a fashion designer, mental health advocate but most importantly African History and Spirituality Content Creator.
The content creation is what propelled Vivian into the limelight. For some reason, she has managed to attract a legion of over one million followers on TikTok, 88,000 on Instagram and 7,000 on Facebook by posting unconventional information – content about African history, which she claims is never taught in Africa due to “the white man syndrome”.
Africa, says Vivian, is Alkebu-lan. In Kemetic History of Africa, Dr Cheikh Anah Diop writes that ‘the ancient name of Africa was Alkebu-lan – ‘the mother of mankind’ or ‘garden of Eden’. It is the oldest and the only name of indigenous origin which was used by the Moors, Nubians, Numidians, Carthagenians and Ethiopians.
Africa, the misnomer adopted by almost everyone today, says Vivian, was given to the continent by the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Westerners whom she refers to as colonisers in her content.
This is the kind of information that intrigues Vivian and what she has been serving to the masses since 2021, when she first joined TikTok, consequently building an online community from which she now earns a living through market influencing.
Her social pages are loaded with historical facts and stories that sometimes leave her followers confused, startled and appreciative.
“Within two months of starting to share this content, I had gathered one million followers. I didn’t expect to gain such massive following in such a short time, but then again, I wasn’t surprised,” she says.
“The numbers are no fluke. Most of what I share is never taught in Kenyan schools and that’s what a lot of people find fascinating, especially about their origin as Africans.”
She goes on: “The African history taught in our schools is mostly composed of biased colonial lies that always paint Africa as a barbaric, uncivilised, savage, war-infested continent. History taught here only addresses slavery and colonisation of African people yet Africa is the mother of civilisation. What I share are the knowledge and philosophies I have studied about us Africans.”
Vivian credits TikTok for her success. She had been posting similar content on other social media platforms for years but never did not get much attention until she jumped on the short video App.
“I had no idea I would attract attention because I had been talking about African history on Facebook for years but people didn’t care to listen. When I started on TikTok, I thought the results would be the same. At some point I was shocked when Beyonce’s manager reposted one of my videos,” she recalls.
Due to her vast knowledge of African history, many people presume that she is a historian by profession. That is not the case. “I don’t have a degree in History, I never studied History and I don’t think I need to because, like I said, modern education doesn’t teach true history. What is taught is not our history.”
Although she appreciates TikTok for giving her a platform to share her content in an impactful manner, there have been some disappointments. “The only problem I face is that TikTok is racist. Almost all black content creators complain about this. The platform discriminates and disrespects black people all the time because systematic racism has its roots very deep in this world,” she claims. Nonetheless she is satisfied with the impact she has created, and the recognition she has received.
“I won two awards: Positive Impact Award and Voice for Africa Awards. I was competing against notable people in Africa, the likes of Mo Abudu, who has millions of followers. That to me meant that I was creating the impact that’s needed. I also received a lot of messages and monetary appreciations from people, thanking me for my enlightening content.”
Despite Africa being behind other continents in many ways, Vivian insists that the continent is heading in the right direction and that, with this kind of activism, things can only get better.
“The beauty of it is that the necessary changes are already being made. Congo decided to take control of its resources, Mali kicked the French out, Ghana is no longer exporting its cocoa to exploitative colonisers and the African Union has made Kiswahili the official working language. All these have happened within one year,” she observes.
For her fashion, too, is Africa-inspired. “I was born of a mother who was a tailor so fashion has always been a part of my journey, perfectly intertwined. As a fashion designer, my desire is to figure out what my ancestral fashion would have morphed into if there was no colonial interference.”
With her huge following, brands and corporates have been reaching out for collaborations. She charges KSh70,000 for content creation, KSh50,000 for product photography, KSh35,000 for product reviews and KSh120,000 for brand ambassadorial roles.