This weekend I have been to a wonderful photography exhibition at the Fortaleza in Maputo. The exhibition, called “Filhos da lua”, or “Sons of the moon”, presents stunning pictures of children and adults affected by albinism. It is a powerful reminder of the discrimination that many albino people unjustly suffer throughout Africa.
For me, this exhibition has been a great opportunity to enjoy some beautiful pictures, to learn more about the discrimination affecting albinos and to appreciate the efforts made by the local NGO ADOD (Associação Defendendo os Nossos Direitos) to explain albinism to the general public.Albinism is a congenital disease that is transmitted from parents to children when recessive genes from mother and father combine in the child’s chromosomes. Albinos are normal people: they simply lack melanin for pigmentation of the skin, hair and eyes. Their white skin is particularly vulnerable to the effects of the sun and it requires high protection to avoid painful skin lesions and cancer. The eyes of albinos are very sensitive too, particularly to strong light, and do not provide perfect vision: corrective glasses and sunglasses can greatly improve albinos’ vision.
So, albinism is a disease like many others, with no cure yet, but with treatment that can improve the quality of life of affected individuals.
However, one of the biggest side effects of albinism, particularly in Africa, is discrimination. All sorts of myths surround albinos and this exhibition defies some of the most common:
- Albinism is not contagious;
- Albinos do not disappear with thunderstorms;
- The blood of albinos or they organs are not suitable for black magic;
- When an albino dies, s/he does not vanish;
- Giving birth to an albino child is not bad luck and it does not constitute nor relate to works of darkness;
- Cursing and discriminating against albinos does not mean that one is going to bear albino children;
- There is no scientific evidence that seawater has any positive effects in treating albino skin.
“Filhos da lua” is a beautiful exhibition which will sensitize anyone who will visit it. The images are moving: there are albino kids with light and joy in their eyes, muscular strong men and graceful dancers, women with their faces damaged by the disease, children smiling at school and families united beyond the color of their skin. In those pictures, in those lives, there is love, dignity, courage, all mixed with a great deal of pain.
By all standards, this is a worthwhile exhibition, open until March 31 at the Fortaleza in Maputo. If you have a chance, don’t miss it!