Nigerian comic creates heroes with albinism to end ritual murders

Albino witchcraft victims mutilated for their body parts as part of black magic rituals. [Courtesy]

A group of young Nigerians have invented an island where people with albinism live to escape being hunted down and having their limbs hacked off for use in witch doctors’ magic potions.

While the hideaway is fictional - it only exists in Peda Comics’ latest online series, due for release on Saturday - it is based on real-life murders of people with albinism across Africa, the creative team behind the comic said.

“It’s crazy, it’s outrageous and it doesn’t make any sense - it’s evil,” Peter Daniel, 22, executive producer of the comic and head of Peda Studio, a Nigerian multimedia company, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Lagos.

“The story hasn’t been told before. We need to showcase this to the world, what is happening.”

Albinism is a genetic condition where a lack of the melanin pigment makes people’s hair and skin white, which can make them vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancers.

The United Nations (U.N.) estimates 1 in 1,400 people are affected in Tanzania - one of the countries with the highest rates of mutilation and murder for their body parts, which are believed to possess magical powers.

In the first of the three-part series of “Under the Sun”, people with albinism take action after the president of the fictional African state of Zamia is assassinated in a coup.

The comic’s creator Austine Osas said he was motivated to work on the issue after seeing a friend with albinism being bullied at school in Nigeria.

The colorful, illustrated format of a comic is “much easier for people to grasp”, he said, adding that Peda Comics plan to distribute hard copies of the stories in rural areas in future.

OUT OF THE SHADOWS

More than 600 attacks on people with albinism have been reported in 28 countries across Africa since 2006, which represents a major threat given the small number of people with the condition and many cases going unreported, the U.N. says.

Ikponwosa Ero, the U.N.’s first independent expert on albinism believes that violence and prejudice can be reduced through education, poverty alleviation, better law enforcement and increased political representation.

“Nearly all victims (of attacks) are poor or not educated,” said Ero, a lawyer from Nigeria, based in Canada.

Ero highlighted the change brought by Isaac Mwaura - the first Kenyan with albinism to be nominated first to parliament and then to the Senate - who organized the East African country’s second Mr and Miss Albinism beauty pageant last month.

“Because of this senator, Kenya is leaps and bounds ahead of any African countries,” she said.

Ero said that creative efforts to change superstitious attitudes and political pressure are bearing fruit.

“I see a global movement awakening,” she said.

“We’re bringing people out of the shadows in a way that nobody expected. And if this momentum continues, I think that these attacks will come to an end.”

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