DEFINED BY MY COMPLEXION
By: Zama Ngcoya
While albinism is regarded as simply a genetic disorder in the Western world, in African cultures some still believe it is a “curse from the greater forces”.
Hlobisile Masinga says that to her it is a genetic skin disorder that makes you “lighter than average individuals”.
Masinga (19) from Ematikwe, a small township at Inanda, was diagnosed with albinism when she was born. She had inherited the genetic disorder from her mother, who is also an albino.
She said that in her childhood, she had no understanding of the condition.
“Growing up, all I knew was that the sun hurt my skin and that I had poor vision. No one actually understood me besides my mother, the only other albino in my family, who unfortunately died when I was eight years old,” she said.
Masinga also says she was given “special treatment” due to the color of her skin.
“I had people who wanted to shake my hand, give me money or pity me just because I was lighter in complexion. It was annoying at first but as I grew, I stopped taking it personally,” she adds.
Masinga says ignoring the name-calling and myths associated with albinism was difficult.
“It has not been easy. I have been called many names such as isishawa, umlungu and isiphiwo,” she said.
In addition to the name calling, she has also been told a lot of myths about albinos.
“There are many myths that I have heard about albinos such as albinos don’t die, and that we have magical powers. Someone once asked if I glow in the dark!” she adds.
According to www.healthline.com/health/albinism, “Albinism is a rare genetic disorder that causes the skin, hair, or eyes to have little or no colour.”
The National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH) states that approximately one in 17 000 people have a form of albinism. For years, superstitions have incited ritual attacks against albinos.
Witch doctors in countries such as Tanzania have become infamous for using body parts culled from albinos in potions, which are then sold to people who believe the concoction brings luck, wealth and protection.
Masinga says she was disturbed by the spate of albino murders in several African countries.
“Many albinos have lost their lives because of selfish and ignorant witchdoctors who murder them for their body parts. They put their financial gain before the lives of others and fail to understand that albinos are also humans.
It is only their skin colour that sets them apart from the other people, she said.