Albinos in much of sub-Saharan Africa are in danger. Albinos lack the pigment melanin in their eyes, skin, and hair. It’s a genetic defect, but in much of Africa, it’s also reason for extreme, and deadly, prejudice. Phillip Martin has been reporting for our program on race and color around the world. This is the first of two stories Martin prepared on the growing threat to albinos. As one interviewee told him:
“I can tell you that throughout the whole area of Africa, beliefs exist that people with albinism are cursed, that the mother had sex with the white man, that she had sex with a European ghost, that these people are evil, that they’re possessed, that they’re substandard, that the disease is contagious. There’s a host of myths that prevail for hundreds of years for people with albinism in large parts of Africa.”
Listen to Part 1:
To see more photos from Tanzania, click here.
In part two of Phillip Martin’s series on albinism worldwide, he surveys global efforts to show albinos in a more favorable light. Martin interviews Rick Guidotti, a fashion photographer who, in 1999, photographed a young albino woman named Christine (at left) for a Life Magazine photo essay entitled “Redifining Beauty.” Guidotti remembers:
“She walked into my studio with her head down, shoulders hunched, eyes down as well, one word answers, no eye contact. This kid had zero self esteem because of being teased her entire life because of her albinism. So I thought, well I’m going to photograph her in respect to the way I would photograph anyone, Cindy or Claudia. So the lights went on, the music the fan. I grabbed a mirror, and was like, ‘Christine look.’ This kid looked in the mirror, and for the first time, saw a beautiful girl.”
Listen to Part 2:
To hear more of Phillip Martin’s reporting, visit The Color Initiative.