ONTD Political

Portraits of Albinism: Letting An Inner Light Shine

3:57 am - 12/01/2012

Zawia Kassim, 12, of Kigoma Region, is photographed at the Kabanga Protectorate Center in Tanzania. She would like to be a teacher someday.

Photographers look for beauty in unexpected places. And in parts of Tanzania — a society that gravely mistreats albinos — photojournalist Jacquelyn Martin set out to show how beautiful she thinks they are.

Tanzanians with albinism endure a particularly cruel fate. Not only do they suffer from sun sensitivity and vision problems, but they are also hunted by witch doctors who believe their body parts can be used for magic.

Since 2006, more than 71 albinos have been killed in Tanzania so their bodies could be made into potions.

"They go through daily prejudice and hardship," Martin says on the phone. "People around them don't think of them as humans."

Helen Sekalima, 40, with her baby, Jessica, two months old, at the Kabanga Protectorate Center. Of Helen's nine children, three of them have albinism. "The people in the village said that the children are not normal people, that they are like devils," she said. Her husband was attacked protecting their oldest son from attackers, and now has limited mobility in his arm.

Tanzania — which is thought to be the birthplace of the genetic mutation — has one of the highest rates of albinism in the world. Albinos account for nearly 1 in every 1,400 people, compared to about 1 in 20,000 worldwide. And because of social discrimination, albinos tend to marry each other, thereby passing their genes to their children.

Martin is a photojournalist for The Associated Press who normally covers politics, but she has a personal interest in issues of race and identity. Every year she takes personal time to tell long-form stories, and this year she traveled to Tanzania for three-and-a-half weeks. She visited the Kabanga Protectorate Center — a sort of boarding school for people with albinism — for her project Tribe of Ghosts.

Martin worked with a translator to interview her subjects and take their portraits. In some cases, it was the first time they had ever had their photo taken.

"In society, they are reviled, so they really responded to being treated with dignity and being photographed in a respectful, humanitarian manner," she says.

"I really think there is something special in this collection of portraits where their inner beauty shines through," she adds. "We would talk about their experiences ... and they would laugh and love that they were in the pictures."

The Kabanga center and others like it protect people with albinism but also isolate them. Martin told me there is not much of a plan for the albinos beyond primary education. Because they can't live safely in Tanzanian society, she says, their prospects for marriage, a career and a normal life are unclear.

Martin plans to give prints to every person she photographed.

"Because they are not treated like humans, because they are not treated with respect, I hope they have a little something that helps them reflect on the beauty in themselves — to help them going forward."

Martin collaborated with the Asante Mariamu organization, a northern Virginia group dedicated to raising awareness of people with albinism in Tanzania.

Source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2012/11/21/165652046/portraits-of-albinism-letting-an-inner-light-shine

furrygreen 1st-Dec-2012 04:41 pm (UTC)
Oh wow! Those poor people! I don't think I'd have a tenth of the inner strength as some of them. I can't even imagine wanting to be a lawyer to (peacefully) help others. If my own parents had tried to murder me for the black market, I think I'd be consumed with rage and hate.

They're so beautiful too. Who would want to destroy and cut that up? *sigh*

Edited at 2012-12-01 04:43 pm (UTC)
lonely_hour 2nd-Dec-2012 07:53 am (UTC)
"who would want to destroy and cut that up?"
well...look whats happening to the forests and what not...
tnganon 2nd-Dec-2012 10:12 pm (UTC)
can we not compare people being murdered (esp since there's already a big factor of dehumanization) to deforestation thx
lonely_hour 3rd-Dec-2012 01:13 am (UTC)
i agree with that. but i wasn't comparing them on the same level per se, as you and bleed_peroxide suggests i did (deforestation = murder). It was just a remark on how as humans we destroy and ruin things we know and understand to be important, precious and worthy of respect/dignity. So "who would want to destroy and cut that up?" i take as an ironic, almost rhetorical question -because we do plenty of things that begs the question of "why do we do that?"/"why would want to destroy?" I just brought up deforestation because the degradation of ecology is a clear image of some of the contrary behaviour humans exhibit; the things we do that are antagonistic to our own beliefs of what constitutes the good life. I apologize for offending you with my unclear comment, but i didn't mean to imply cutting humans has the same weight is the same as cutting a tree -but as both falling under being a subject to often inscrutable, contrary and distressing human behaviour.
tnganon 3rd-Dec-2012 06:14 am (UTC)
why don't you just apologize for comparing them then, instead of your philosophical intentions which really don't matter here? i understood your comment perfectly fine thanks, but maybe you should consider there are respectful places and occasions for you to wax rhapsodic on human nature and trees and this is neither.

& honestly don't apologize to me it's not me you're dehumanizing

Edited at 2012-12-03 06:16 am (UTC)
lonely_hour 3rd-Dec-2012 09:17 am (UTC)
I articulated incompetently and i apologize for comparing and thus dehumanizing albino Tanzanians...really, i stand humbled as wrong and this will also be a reminder as a lesson in taking responsibility for what i write can be interpreted as despite my meanings.

Edited at 2012-12-03 11:53 am (UTC)
tnganon 3rd-Dec-2012 05:50 pm (UTC)
again, i'm not personally affected by this so i can't accept/decline your apology, but thank you for making it.
lonely_hour 4th-Dec-2012 04:56 am (UTC)
I'm just putting it out there, to convey it to those whom are, that i am sorry.
bleed_peroxide 2nd-Dec-2012 11:59 pm (UTC)
People being murdered =/= deforestation. I can't believe you'd actually compare the two.
lonely_hour 3rd-Dec-2012 01:15 am (UTC)
yes, please don't believe that. because i didn't. I replied and apologized to both of you guys in the comment above.
bleed_peroxide 3rd-Dec-2012 02:22 am (UTC)
Fair enough. Considering the context of the article, your comment seemed awfully dehumanizing and was treading on dangerous territory. I appreciate you taking the time to explain rather than jump immediately to the defensive - the way you explained it above makes a bit more sense, and I can definitely agree with you on several points.
miss_makiba 1st-Dec-2012 05:21 pm (UTC)
I had to re-read some lines of this a couple times because of the horror. Potions? They're being made into potions? D: I mean, it's wrong and horrific to kill people for their skin color obviously, but these people are being butchered to be made into potions. That's serial killer shit right there.

So happy to see this photography, on another note. It's nice to see these people getting some respect.
tothechangmin 1st-Dec-2012 05:26 pm (UTC)
in my sociology class we watched a short clip on this topic, and one person actually said his brother sold him out to 'hunters' for money. some people are just really horrific. :/
the_physicist 1st-Dec-2012 06:47 pm (UTC)
Sad thread throughout all of human history really that those who are different get othered to the extent where people feel justified in killing them for whatever excuse. -_-
romp 1st-Dec-2012 08:57 pm (UTC)
yeah, that's the bottom line in the end...time for some LOLcats!
tabaqui 1st-Dec-2012 07:36 pm (UTC)
Well, fuck. That's a horror that just needs to *stop*. How in the world can people be that...disconnected from humanity to actually hunt other humans down for *potion ingredients*.

If ever a group of people needed special dispensation for visas to other countries....
romp 1st-Dec-2012 09:08 pm (UTC)
I've heard of this before and hate that there's no solution as far as I know. All that comes to mind is giving them refugee status but then they're leaving communities, family, history,...
yamamanama 1st-Dec-2012 09:32 pm (UTC)
Or spreading the word that potions with albino blood are either a scam, are made with curare, or turn them into albinos themselves.
anaralia 1st-Dec-2012 09:48 pm (UTC)
I'd heard of an incident where hunters broke into a house, and because the mother had hidden the albino baby, they killed her instead when they couldn't find the baby. I thought it was an isolated incident in my ignorance; just one witch doctor who had spread misinformation, maybe with a vendetta against that particular family. I'm really sorry to hear it's so widespread.
oldruggedspork 1st-Dec-2012 09:55 pm (UTC)
Holy shit. Sorry no other words.
valkeakuulas 1st-Dec-2012 10:00 pm (UTC)
This is so horrifying. Being killed for potions like animals. Holy shit, the things people do in this world.
johnjie 1st-Dec-2012 10:33 pm (UTC)
Holy shit, what could happen to them sounds like something straight out of a horror film.

That said, these photographs are beautiful, and it's nice to see someone committed to documenting them and the hardships they face.
recorded 2nd-Dec-2012 01:04 am (UTC)
Angel Salvatory, 17, has skin cancer and has been living in the center for four years. Her maternal grandparents were killed protecting her from an attack led by her own father.

There are no words.
yndigot 2nd-Dec-2012 02:39 am (UTC)
I saw a documentary about this a couple years ago. Terribly, terribly sad and horrifying.

On a happier note, that picture of baby Jessica with her mother is just too cute and beautiful for words.
mahsox_mahsox 2nd-Dec-2012 02:39 am (UTC)
I sadly suspect they'd have a difficult time claiming official refugee status anywhere, which is really sad because I think it would be a valuable option for many of them. Yet another way in which there needs to be progress in disability rights.
ms_maree 2nd-Dec-2012 02:44 am (UTC)
Is albinism classified as a disability?
mahsox_mahsox 2nd-Dec-2012 09:09 am (UTC)
Most forms of it should be, but of course definitions vary from place to place. It makes a person's skin and eyes far more sensitive to the sun than even the whitest of white non-albinos, and people with albinism often have other eye disorders. An albino person can live a happy, normal sort of life, if the society they live in has jobs for them out of the sun (a lot of rural places don't) and isn't dickish about albinism, but they will never have the same range of occupational and recreational choices most of the rest of us have.
effervescent 2nd-Dec-2012 08:17 am (UTC)
This is just horrendous. It's just so awful that people can distance themselves so much from other human beings that they can think that this sort of thing is okay. I did some further reading on wiki and it's just stomach turning. :/
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