Albinos add beauty to the world's tapestry
Yesterday global music icon Salif Keita's dream and that of countless others living with albinism was realised as the world celebrated the first International Albinism Awareness Day.
Adopted by the UN General Assembly in New York this year, activists like Nomasonto Mazibuko of the Albinism Society of South Africa believe that such a day is necessary to end discrimination, stigma and attacks.
Keita's 2009 album La Différence was dedicated to the struggle of people living with albinism . Rejected by his own family in Mali at a tender age because of his condition, Keita has been on a crusade to raise awareness around the condition regarded as a sign of bad luck in the Mandinka and other cultures .
In Africa people with albinism have become "human sacrifices", as they are banished in some parts as bearers of bad luck, and killed for muti in other parts where they are believed to bring good luck.
Albinism is a congenital disorder characterised by the partial or complete absence of the pigment melanin in the skin, hair and eyes. People with albinism are more susceptible to sunburn and skin cancers. Albinism is also associated with visual problems, namely photophobia, amblyopia (lazy eye), nystagmus and others.
People with albinism face social challenges, as their condition often results in discrimination, ridicule and sometimes violence.
Keita has, against all odds, become a global music phenomenon. His albums feature the who's who in world music, including Carlos Santana, Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Paco Sery, and Bill Summers.
In La Différence, Keita sings: "I am black/ my skin is white/ so I am white and my blood is black/... I love that because it is a difference that's beautiful ... Some of us are beautiful some are not/ some are black some are white/ all that difference was on purpose... for us to complete each other/ let everyone get his love and dignity/ the world will be beautiful."