2017 - Ongoing
The Ghost People of Tanzania
They are called, zeru zeru, which in Swahili translates to the ghost people, these are the persecuted people with albinism in Tanzania. Albinism is a congenital disorder characterized by the lack of melanin in the skin, hair, and eyes. Tanzania currently holds the worlds largest population of people with albinism (PWA) at in every 1,400 individuals - but for country with such a large population there is little awareness on the fact that albinism is actually a genetic condition. Witchcraft is at the root of Tanzanian culture, and witch doctors create ‘Albino elixir’ using albino body parts fueling beliefs that the potion brings wealth and power. As a result of these misconceptions, the albinism population lives under the daily threat of abuse, abductions, and ritual killings.
When human rights are ignored, the marginalization of certain persons within a society prevents such a group from becoming involved and benefitting from development. The first chapter of this project, commenced in the fall of 2017 throughout various regions and albinism communities throughout Tanzania. Through powerful testimony and public art, this visual advocacy project explores the identities of 50 Tanzanians with albinism and shares proof of the hardships and heart-wrenching reality that this community has endured. Via large-scale visual documents in the form of diptychs, each exhibits a portrait and written passage of individuals with albinism expressing their experiences, emotions, and thoughts – as they have been silenced for so long. These pieces provide the opportunity for individuals to tell their own story rather than someone telling it for them to break the cycle of injustice and marginalization.
The next phase of this project aims to expand and provide education through visual storytelling in the utmost secluded areas of Tanzania (such as the Great Lakes region). The succeeding intention is to prompt movement towards eradicating traditional beliefs rooted in hate and reframe the societal conversation on the albinism condition. This project upholds the concept of integration and instilling dignity back into the community by equipping individuals with tools needed to demand their deserved rights and encourage self-advocacy. The grant distribution will be focused on facilitating informative panels targeting accurate information on the condition while dispersing educative diptychs highlighting the stories of PWA. By spreading advocacy via seminars and photography, in villages, government facilities, universities, schools, hospitals, a targeted approach will be conducted to reach rural secluded areas of the country, where killings and abuse towards PWA has remained prominent. Through the secured partnerships with Tanzanian NGO’s, Under the Same Sun, documentation, interviews, and establishing presence within these relationships, insight (visual and written) will be obtained to produce a work that empowers the albinism community and documents the role of migration in our world and to the human experience.
Through the PHM 2018 Women Photographers Grant, this opportunity will allow for a deeper focus on documenting Tanzanians with albinism through combating the misconceptions of the condition and community. Ultimately, this grant will allow the opportunity to further my artistic skill set and help me produce a level of work to present to galleries in aim to curate a traveling exhibition through public and private institutions to advocate and drive towards obtaining full and equal human rights for Tanzanians with albinism.