I sort of knew about the issues surrounding albinism in Tanzania, but I never really knew until I came here. I had heard about the persecution and actual hunting of people with albinism here, but it was one of those things I dismissed as, “yeah, right.” Tanzania has one of the largest occurences of albinism in the world. In East Africa, 1 in 2,000 people here are born with albinism, whereas 1 in 20,000 people are born with it in North America and Europe. Tanzania is also one of the most dangerous places for a person with albinism to live. Less than 2% live to see 40 years of age. Half develop advanced skin cancer before 20; but the sun isn’t the only threat to people with albinism in Tanzania.
According to local mythology, persons with albinism have some sort of magical power. Many people believe that consuming their body parts (in the form of potions and medicines) will bring good fortune, etc. People with albinism are often killed or dismembered. Sometimes they’re even sold by members of their own family. In the last five years or so, the government has begun to crack down on the murder of persons with albinism, but many still live in fear of their lives and the other hardships that come with being “different.”
A few weeks ago, I went to a photography exhibit that raises awareness of these issues. I felt a little weird taking pictures of pictures, but I really wanted to share them here. I also wanted to share a copy of the flyer being handed out at the exhibit so that you can read some of the myths told about persons with albinism for yourself.
To learn more about albinism in Tanzania and what you can do to help, visit Under the Same Sun .
You can also visit the webpage of the photographer from this exhibit here.