BORN with albinism, Athenkosi Kwinana, 23, a student who was born with albinism, wants to make her mark with her thesis on the scars left on thousands of people living with the condition in the Eastern Cape.
BORN with albinism, AThenkosi Kwinana, 23, a student who was born with albinism, wants to make her mark with her thesis on the scars left on thousands of people living with the condition in the Eastern Cape.
The Bachelor of Technology (B.tech) in Fine Art Walter Sisulu University (WSU) student, who lives in East London, said she aims to cover and challenge the representation and misinterpretation of the condition in popular culture and the stigmas, traditions and beliefs associated with those living with the condition.
“I grew up believing that albinism is this wonderful thing because of being different from everyone else. But as I grew up I came to terms with the canvas painted about people like me – a false story, of uneducable delinquents which yet seem to be of much fabled value to the vulnerable. “I created this research paper targeted at those with the condition, parents, teachers and my generation – the whole community, as we have to revisit what we think or what we know about albinism.” The Mthatha-born student said she had suffered discrimination from time to time.
“I had to be moved from black-based schools to white-based schools while in primary school because of the constant mocking from children who I now know were not aware about what the condition was. That is why it is important for me to educate and create awareness about the condition in the Eastern Cape.”
She said parents with children born with the albinism also needed to be educated.
“It all starts at home. Parents are clueless on how to even cater for their affected children, so how could they teach other children? I recall my mother would get regular calls from a woman who had a child with albinism, on how she should treat her, what to apply on for skincare and how to deal with bullying.”
Kwinana’s thesis serves as a stimulus for the production of artworks, created by her that will be presented at Ann Bryant Gallery in November this year. She wants society to reject the myths associated with albinism and to focus on education. “Sleeping with me will not cure Aids and my body parts will not bring you success. It is shocking that this discrimination comes from our elders, the ones who should have knowledge about such issues. It goes to show the evident root of these stigmas and beliefs in the black community,”
Her advice to others with albinism is to “stand fierce”.
“Teach yourself everyday that the only person who can stop you from achieving anything is yourself.”