Albinism: The Moving Story of Model Thando Hopa

· December 4, 2015

In today’s article we’re going to talk about a subject that’s not very well known. It’s likely that on more than one occasion you’ve seen an albino person, or even known someone with this condition among your friends or acquaintances. As you probably already know, albinism is a congenital condition that’s characterized by a lack of pigmentation in the hair, skin, and eyes.

Albinism can occur in both humans and animals, and due to the absence of melanin is also a very serious skin disease due to sensitivity to the sun. It’s very difficult to be an albino person, but one of the worst areas to have this genetic abnormality is in a continent like Africa. In today’s article we want to tell you about the moving story behind a young, black albino model named Thando Hopa. She gives a voice to this reality.

African model Thando Hopa

2 albino modelThando Hopa is a 24-year-old model who is also a lawyer. She considers herself lucky, because being born in Africa as an albino is tantamount to a curse. She was educated in Johannesburg, where she attracted a lot of attention due to her delicate and striking features that were stunning on stage as well as magazine covers. Ms. Hopa is one of the few black albino models in the world.

Perhaps because of her success and experiences, she chose to study law to give a voice to the stigma and social drama that occurs in Africa but remains relatively unknown worldwide.

The curse of being born albino in Africa

3 albino child
You might be surprised to know, first of all, that Africa is home to one of the highest rates of albinism in the world. This is particularly true in Tanzania. Experts haven’t been able to uncover the cause of this phenomenon, but it’s suspected that it is related to the early European inhabitants of this area during colonialism and their subsequent inbreeding. In this continent, the rate of albinism is 15% higher than the rest of the world.

According to Ms. Hopa, being an albino in Africa is presumed to be, first and foremost, a physical problem, but it is also a social one. Due to the strong sunlight and scarce resources people who suffer from this condition frequently experience skin cancer and blindness. In addition to this, they face the scorn of others.

Albinos are often called “Zeru-Zeru,” which means child of the devil, or ghost. It is believed that albinism was placed upon people as a curse upon their parents, whose sins are reflected in the ghostly appearance of their child. This leads to social rejection and even abandonment.

Even worse, it is said that an albino living in Africa is worthless, but a dead albino person is as valuable as diamonds. Why? Particular tribes, social groups, and healers in Africa believe that the blood or organs of an albino person have magical healing properties. Albinism thus can be as deadly as being a rhinoceros or elephant with ivory tusks: large sums of money have been paid to maul or even kill an albino person.

4 albino child
This is a shocking reality that’s been reported by numerous humanitarian organizations. Groups of armed men appear during the night to take albino children and adults to mutilate them, or to cut off their arms and legs. Most horribly, many of these people are murdered. Extraordinary amounts of money are paid for their limbs, blood, or organs, and these heinous acts strike at the very core of humanity and justice.

Albinism in Africa may truly be a curse, which is why people like Thando Hopa lend a voice to these suffers, as international organizations attempt to bring the issue into the global spotlight. Particularly in Tanzania is this a severe problem. In spite of their efforts, many albino people die every year – either from these crimes against humanity or heart and other problems related to their disorder. Sunburns, infection, and cancer are among the main threats they face.

Today there are many children who have had to learn to survive without their feet or hands. And yet many of them have never lost their optimism, in spite of having what is possibly one of the worst social stigmas in their society.