· Albinism and Africa ·
I’ve never been to Tanzania, but I’ve researched the country, especially the PWA community. The acronym stands for People With Albinism.
If you want to learn more about the genetic condition called albinism, I recommend the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH).
If you want information on the fight against attacks on people with albinism, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, then Under the Same Sun (UTSS), operated out of Canada, is the best organization.
Here is a quotation from Peter Ash, founder and CEO of UTSS: “I have a dream that one day people with albinism will take their rightful place in every level of society, and that the days of discrimination will be a faint memory.”
Suanna Morningcloud is a twelve-year-old character in my contemporary novel, Taking Back the Bullet: Trajectories of Self-Discovery. Born and raised in Kansas, her genetic condition (which does not produce melanin) challenges her to adapt to the sun’s punishing ultraviolet power, but worse, to deal with unrelenting stigma.
From an early age, we all learn that being different causes one to stand out. Being in the spotlight can cause us to shine, or it can overwhelm us if we are blinded by the attention.
This is how I introduce Suanna in Taking Back the Bullet: “Throughout her short life, long before Officer Jennings knew her, Suanna was repeatedly a natural target from the insecure who grasped at others to pull them down to their chaotic level. She was born not dark or light, not bronze, but with an absence of all color. In what seemed inexplicable, she was born with albinism, most rare in nature.”
In the novel, Suanna is exposed to other cultures with PWA’s where they are treated differently than in the United States. One such place is the rural Misenyi District, Tanzania.
While my character-driven literary fiction is upbeat, in this chapter, a dream of Suanna’s, she is shaken by the cruel world around her.
“Despite their youthful ages, the girls already knew that evil witch doctors, not the modern healers they relied on, would encourage albino mutilation or murder for their blood or body parts. This magical ritual or sacrifice was known as muti medicine. It was gruesome just thinking about the stories of targeted children.”
My decades of educating children about personal safety awareness made this chapter fascinating for me on so many levels. Parents want to protect their children the best they can while simultaneously giving them freedom to explore and mature.
In setting the scene for this African dream, the reader meets Suhaila. She’s known locally as the “Princess of Parrots,” or “Bird Whisperer,” because of her bond with the many African grey parrots.
While I regularly imagine or create my literary characters, Suhaila was “borrowed” from my wife’s studio after Alex sculpted the piece and added an African parrot tattoo on her back!
This partnership of sharing stories encourages; this connectivity is an artist’s dream come true. Alex visualized the spiritual story of Suhalia before she could mold her from clay.
Once Suhaila was decorated and dressed, she was whole, ready to audition, to meet people.
Her impact on me was so powerful that I couldn’t help but add her to Suanna’s story in my novel.
In this way Suhaila’s spirit, like a shape-shifter, lives on as she becomes a literary character waiting to connect to a welcoming reader.
Until next time, happy writing and reading!