Friday, August 15, 2008

Albinos in Africa catch hell.

Ever wonder about albinos in Africa? Reportedly, one in every 4,000 Africans is born with albinism. Which would add up to nearly a quarter million black albinos on the continent.

Now brace yourself: In Tanzania, people with albinism are being murdered and mutilated... so their body parts can be used for magic.

Embedded below is a 12-minute video report about this phenomenon, broadcast last month on Al Jazeera English.

The second video is about albinos in South Africa. Thankfully, they are not targets for murder... but they do face social ostracism. You’ll meet a young woman from Soweto whose father abandoned her due to her condition.

That 8-minute piece was produced in 2006 by London-based Journeyman Pictures.


Geneva Girl said...

That's just messed up. Ignorant, scary and sad.

John B. said...

On my two trips to Nigeria, I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of albinos. In fact, when I was in the Igbo area, I saw one just about every day (when's the last time you saw one here in the US?)

As to why this should be is totally a mystery to me. You would think that albinos in Africa would be at an evolutionary disadvantage, as they suffer terribly from skin cancer under the tropical sun, and would soon be eliminated from the population, but apparently Africa has the highest rate of albinism in the world.

Any geneticists out there who can shed some light on this?

Undercover Black Man said...

John, in the second video, the narrator says about South Africa (and it's likely true of the rest of Africa) that it's a matter of "endogamy," or marrying within the same genetic pool. This allows the recessive albinism gene to manifest more frequently.

John B. said...

Well, I should have watched the video, then. I read in a reference book on mutations that the Igbo of Nigeria have the highest rate of albinism in the world.

What makes this odd to me is that the Igbo have strict, strict traditions regarding exoogamy. It is absolutely forbidden to marry even distant relatives. My wife was aghast to discover when she came to this country that it is legal in some states for first cousins to marry.

As the Igbo number around 20 million people it is still a mystery to me why albinism would be so common there. Polygamy may be a factor, as it would undoubtedly be in the rest of Africa.

I'm not aware of the sort of victimization of albinos in Nigeria that you describe in other countries, although I'm sure they don't have an easy time of it.

This has piqued my interest. I'll have study this more.

Undercover Black Man said...

I read in a reference book on mutations that the Igbo of Nigeria have the highest rate of albinism in the world.

Wow. That piques my interest as well.

makheru bradley said...

It’s too bad the Afrikans of the 15th Century didn’t view pale-skin people from Europe with a similar sense of foreboding.

“A ruinous opening we had, for those who came as beggars, turned to snakes after feeding.”—Armah

One study on this subject "reported that the most common type of albinism occurring in 1:37,000 Caucasians, 1:15,000 African- Americans and 1:3900 South Africans of Bantu-speaking origins, is due to a mutation on chromosome 15. Kromberg and Jenkins estimated that 1 in 4 000 people in the black community in South Africa has albinism compared with 1 in 16 000 people in the white community. They suggested that the high incidence in the black community is largely due to the practice of consanguineous marriage. This is particularly true of the Swazi and Sotho-Tswana tribes where the incidence was estimated as 1 in 2000 people compared with 1 in 4500 in the Zulu and Xhosa tribes in which marriage between cousins is taboo."

Dr. Charles Finch (Echoes of the Old Darkland) notes that:

“Because the albinism gene of either class [tyr (+) or tyr (-)] is recessive, a high prevalence of albinism will only be found in populations with long standing consanguinity.”

What makes this interesting to me is that Afrikans from antiquity forward developed elaborate system of totemism. Dr. A. C. Haddon says “totemism also involves rules of exogamy, forbidding marriage between kins.” (quoted by John G. Jackson - Introduction To African Civilizations)

Obviously some Afrikan ethnic groups did not develop these totemic practices.

The prevalence amongst Afrikan Americans is understandable given the dispersion of our families during the Holocaust of Afrikan Enslavement. Afterwards our ancestors would often not know that they were marrying blood relatives.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Thanks for that, Bro. Makheru.