International Albinism Awareness Day is celebrated every 13th day of June basically to identify with albinos across the world and condemn every form of discrimination against them. Albinism is a rare, non-contagious, condition that is genetically inherited. The hair, skin and eyes of people living with albinism lack melanin, the pigment that gives the skin its color and helps protect it from damage by the ultraviolet light from the sun. It occurs in both genders regardless of ethnicity, and there are albinos in all countries of the world. For an albino to be born, both the father and mother must carry the gene for it to be passed on even if they do not have albinism themselves.
There are many African countries that see nothing wrong with people living with albinism while the stigmatization, persecution and discrimination against albinos is terrible in some others countries in the continent. Some African culture and tradition see albinism as a sign of bad luck in the family and as a result they are ostracized from the family to avoid being ridiculed by the other members of their community. For instance, among the Mandinke people of Mali a child born with albinism is perceived as an ill-omen and a shame to the family to the extent that the child is not allowed to come anywhere near their own family.
This year’s edition of International Albinism Awareness Day is on Saturday, June 13. It is coming in the wake of severe discrimination against albinos, including hunting them down to kill for ritual purposes. To make the society uncomfortable for people with albinism makes them feel that having the condition is a curse. There are reports of killing of albinos across parts of Africa and this discourages albinos and prevents them from striving to shine. It is really difficult to exist as an albino in some African countries where persecution of people with albinism is common, including murder, mutilation and the harvesting of body parts.
The theme of this year’s International Albinism Awareness Day is “Made to Shine Against All Odds”. There are encouraging stories that can make any albino have the hope of shining against all odds. There are people in the albino community who have made great impact in the society and constitute a source of inspiration to everyone including those that are not albinos. Here is a list of people with albinism who are not only popular because they have made impact in the society but are also inspirational personalities to many albinos in Africa.
20 most inspiring albinos in Africa
1. Hilton Longenhoven
Hilton Longenhoven is a South African athlete and three time Paralympic Champion, competing mainly in category F12 long jump events. He was born in Somerset West, Western Cape. He competed in the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens, Greece. His personality is a source of inspiration to people living with albinism in South Africa and other parts of the continent.
2. Refilwe Modiselle
Refilwe Modiselle is a very popular South African model and entertainer born in Rockville, Soweto. She is the country’s first professional fashion model with albinism. She started her modelling career at the age of 13 when she was approached by Y! magazine. Many young girls with albinism look up to her for inspiration they need to excel in the society.
3. Al-Shaymaa Kwegyir
Born in Tanga, Tanzania, Honourable Al-Shaymaa Kwegyir was appointed a member of the country’s National Assembly. She is one of 48 women appointed to the Assembly by President Jakaya Kikwete. She was appointed in 2008. The former airline clerk is at the forefront of efforts to improve the treatment of albinos in Tanzania, where many believe the condition to be a curse or source of magical power.
4. Isaac Mwaura
Mwaura Isaac Maigua is the first Kenyan Senator with Albinism. He is a disability advocate and currently a Nominated Senator in Kenya’s Senate, representing Persons with Disabilities. He is the first Member of Parliament in Kenya with Albinism. He is a member of Jubilee Party. Mwaura uses his position to fight for better life for people living with albinism in Kenya.
5. Salif Keita
Salif Keïta is one of the most popular musicians in Africa. He is an afro-pop singer-songwriter from Mali. Salif has an impressive reputation as the “Golden Voice of Africa” and this is remarkable because he has albinism. To excel in a competitive music industry as an albino is not easy at all. Salif is really talented. He is a member of the Keita royal family of Mali and a popular albino activist in the continent. Salif was ostracized from his family despite being born of royal blood as a direct descendant of the founder of the Malian State, Sundiata Keita. This is because in his country, Mali, being born with albinism is seen as bad omen and a curse. But he was able to overcome the stigmatization to become one of Africa’s legendary musicians.
6. Thando Hopa
Thando Hopa is another very popular young lady whose remarkable story can inspire any albino any day. She is a South African model, activist, and lawyer. She is the first woman with albinism to be on the cover of Vogue. While working as a prosecutor, she was scouted by Gert-Johan Coetzee to work as a model. Thando is a very talented artist and her main goal is to portray albinism in a positive way through her career and talent.
7. Salum Khalfani Bar’wani
Salum Khalfani Bar’wani is a Tanzanian politician and Member of Parliament for Lindi Town constituency since 2010. He is the first Tanzanian MP with albinism to be elected to parliament. He is also a strong advocate of better life for people with albinism in Tanzania.
8. Moses Foh-Amoaning
Moses Foh-Amoaning is a celebrated legal luminary and the long time president of Ghana Boxing Association (GBA). He is also one of the most successful albinos in Africa. Moses is fortunate to come from Ghana where discrimination against albinos is relatively very minimal especially when compared to what happens in some East African Countries. Moses is a well-known albino who easily mingles with people in Ghana without any discrimination. He is also a popular sports commentator in that country. His success story can inspire any albino to greatness.
9. Chikondi Kadzanja
Chikondi Kadzanja is a beauty pageant in Malawi. She won the crown as Miss Albinism Malawi in 2019. To know that albinism cannot hinder anyone who wants to have a career in pageantry from achieving that dream is truly inspirational.
10. Burnet Phunyanya
Burnet Phunyanya is another promising young man with albinism who has excelled against odds in what he loves doing. He won the 2019 edition of Mr. Albinism Malawi and this is not a small feat for a person with albinism. There are so many opportunities that achievement provides for him, including a career in the movie industry and in modeling.
11. Lazarus Chgwandali
Lazarus Chigwandali is another hugely successful albino in Africa. He is a Malawian musician noted for using music to fight the stigmatization of people with albinism. After he was discovered performing on the streets of Lilongwe, he recorded his debut album with Swedish producer Johan Hugo. A film about Lazarus, produced by Madonna, featured at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2019. Lazarus is an international star whose story is a source of inspiration to persons with albinism in Africa.
12. Taiwo Olateju
Taiwo Olateju is a top model and fashion designer based in Lagos, Nigeria. His story of discrimination while growing up is very pathetic but to know that Taiwo overcame the dark side of his early life to become a top model is really inspiring. He is a twin but every other person in his family, including his twin brother, is dark skinned except him. He once considered suicide because of his skin colour. Today, he is an inspiration to many young people living with albinism in Nigeria.
13. Ayanda Sibanda
Ayanda Sibanda is a top model in Zimbabwe. She also won the Miss Albinism Zimbabwe in 2019. A model is always an inspirational personality to young ladies in the society.
14. Silas Shedrack
Silas Shedrack is a Tanzanian model. He won the first ever Mr. Albinism East Africa in 2018. His personality is a spirit-lifting source to many young boys living with albinism in Africa.
15. Maryanne Muigai
Maryanne Muigai is another young lady whose achievements have made her a celebrity in Africa. She is a Kenyan model and she won the first ever Miss Albinism East Africa in 2018. Many young ladies with albinism look up to her for direction and encouragement in achieving their goals in life.
16. Mwimba Texas
Mwimba Makiese Alphonse Texas, aka the “Mandela of albinos,” is a popular wrestler in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He uses his personality and popularity to encourage and inspire persons with albinism in his country. Mwimba who is the president of the association of albinos in the Democratic Republic of Congo, uses his personality to accomplish his mission to change stereotypes about albinism in his country.
17. Godfrey Phunyanya
Godfrey Phunyanya is the first ever person with albinism to be elected Students Union President at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi. He is also one of the very few persons with albinism to have ever reached that position in any University in Africa. Godfrey’s victory was the first time since the university was opened in 1964 for a student with albinism to rise to the highest office in the student union of the college. This is very inspirational especially for students living with albinism across Africa.
18. Gophyl G
Gophyl G is a Malawian Afro Hip hop, pop & RnB artist based in Blantyre. His style of music is loved by many young Malawians and this has made him a celebrity with a huge fan base. You don’t get many pop stars with albinism achieving that height. Gophyl G is an inspiration to persons with albinism in Malawi and across Africa.
19. Jairus Ong’etta
Jairus Ongetta is another young man that inspires young boys with albinism. He is the Mr. Albinism Kenya and one of the popular models with albinism in that country.
20. Loise Lihanda
Loise Lihanda is Miss. Albinism Kenya, 2018. She uses her position to encourage young ladies with albinism to strive to succeed against odds.
If you are a person with albinism, after reading this story the sky should be your limit. These personalities probably passed through whatever discrimination you may have experienced yet they ended up at the top of their various careers and endeavours. As this year’s theme of International Albinism Awareness Day says, you are “made to shine against all odds”.