There is a particularly high rate of albinism amongst people from sub-Saharan Africa. According to some estimates, an estimated one out of every 4,000 people is affected. In comparison, only one out of every 20,000 people born in Europe and the United States have this genetic anomaly.
A mother with albinism and her child.
“I want to show that you can live happily with a person with albinism — or even marry one!”
Josué Valentia Mbanga Iloko
When I was 15, I really liked a girl who was albino. We went to the same church. But my friends didn’t want me to talk to her because she was different. Little by little, I realised that their way of thinking was ridiculous.
At the same time, I realized the level of discrimination and prejudice that Congolese people with albinism face — just like those in other countries. In Kinshasa, a man will often divorce his wife if she gives birth to a child who is albino. Albino children often have trouble making friends at school and, later on, find it difficult to find a job. In the suburbs or the countryside, they face outright danger: albino people often get beaten up… or worse.
It’s common for parents get divorced after an albino child is born.
As I started to learn more about the situation that people with albinism face, I decided I wanted to do something about it. About two years ago, I started featuring people with albinism in my paintings. Sometimes, I include a person with albinism next to someone with a dark complexion. I want to show that you can live happily with a person with albinism — or even marry one! I have already held an exhibition of my work in a school in Kinshasa.
In spite of the challenges that people with albinism continue to face in the DRC, things do seem to be improving. Much of this is thanks to the organisation of events that aim to raise awareness about this population.
In Tanzania, Malawi and Burundi, people with albinism often fall victim to ritual crimes because of the persistence of traditional beliefs that their body parts have magical powers.