Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Albinism: An Erasable Childhood

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Albinism: An Erasable Childhood

Article excerpt

Ubuntu Greeting

Allow me to extend an indigenous African Ubuntu greeting, "Sanibona," meaning "We see you" but also implying that at a deep spiritual level, I am never alone as my ancestors are always with me. Subsequently we see you. The response to this is "Yebo Sanibona," meaning "Yes we see you too." Again, the implication is that you, the reader, and your ancestors, agrees about your observation of us. So, to our ancestors, to our elders, to our parents, to our sisters and brothers, to those yet unborn and to all of creation, "Sanibona." But, let me also request that we exercise caution, because we know that the act of speaking can also be used to deny, refuse and ignore our relatedness.

Introduction to How We are Silent

Ubuntu means humanity but it is a term that has also been used to collectively identify people who live south of the Sahara in Africa. Yet, there are some exceptions as there are some people who do not identify as Ubuntu. A more comprehensive definition of the meaning and implication of Ubuntu will be highlighted later. But, I acknowledge that I am silent on the issue of indigenous Ubuntu with albinism, and could my silence implicate our silence? The report People with Albinism not Ghosts but Human Beings by the United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights reports that: "Violence against people with albinism is largely met by social silence and indifference, and is seldom followed by investigations or the prosecution of perpetrators (2015)." Do we question each other about why we are silent about albinism? How does this silence about albinism affect all of us? What is it about albinism that allows us to silently marginalize, oppress and ultimately erase our Ubuntu children? Could our breaking of this silence be the giving of voice, which begins the process of creating a new social relationship with our Ubuntu children with albinism? Our treatment of our indigenous Ubuntu children with albinism reflects our social interaction, which allows us to voice violence in our killing of the body with albinism. In light of my preceding statement it would seem that our silence is strategically positioned so that we (I) do not have to address the following questions: "Where does albinism end and where do we begin? Is it possible to distinguish where albinism ends and I begin?"

Our indigenous interpretive actions highlight our values within our culture, but I would argue that culture is reflective of shared collective and individualistic values as determined by our own vulnerability in relation to our fears and our aspirations. But it would also be naive of us not to point out that the total maintenance of collective or individual values creates tension between the two positions. We should therefore, in this case, problemitize seeing disability (albinism) from any binary positions as this undermines the complexities of the directional lines which point to albinism as a reflection of inadequacy, flawed character and queer appearance (individual traits) while on the other hand albinism is evidence of possessing supernatural powers, the manifestation of a family's curse, and the presence of a threatening undesirable lesser god-like being (ghost).

The report People with Albinism not Ghosts but Human Beings by the United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights states that:

   The physical appearance of people with albinism is often the object
   of erroneous beliefs and myths influenced by superstition, which
   foster marginalization and even violent attacks against them
   (2015).

I believe Sara Ahmed would convey this phenomenon of albinism as an orientation that: ".... takes the subject towards what it 'is not' and what it 'is not' then confirms what it 'is' (2006 p. 71)." The disability scholar, Hunt (1966) would say that albinism reflects to the community to their own vulnerability and I would argue it is this interaction which elicits condemnation and fear within the Ubuntu community. …

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