Over the past two years, we excelled in what could’ve been considered common. We manufactured plain T-shirts and caps that, at first sight, did not stand out from any other unbranded garments. Being this common, though, turned out to be the key to commercial success. People fell in love with our products that preached ease, quality, and simplicity, as opposed to typical other brands’ products that were too flashy and expensive. One could say that we had successfully become uncommonly common.
Being regarded as uncommonly common, however, does not always go hand-in-hand with prosperity. Society is riddled with groups of people that do not seem to differ much at all from others, but that are being excluded from the in-group nonetheless. Whether it's because of religion, ethnicity, or football club preferences, some of us will always find a way to differentiate among the very same species.
Society reflects a similar fate to a specific group in eastern and southern Africa, that can be considered uncommonly common as well. Just as it can be to other discriminated groups, being uncommonly common means a literal threat to life to them. Who we are talking about? People with albinism in southern and eastern Africa that is.
To us, being uncommonly common has spurred sales and brand recognition - while to them, it implies struggles in everyday life, handicaps, and at times even life-threatening situations. Although these people have two eyes, a nose, hair, and legs like any other person, they are unwillingly drawing attention to themselves because of one difference: their white skin color.
Albinism is a genetic condition where people are born without the usual pigment in their bodies. As such, people with albinism have very pale skin, hair, and eyes. As most of us know, these people therefore have trouble enjoying the outdoors due to exposure to sunlight. Fortunately, wearing appropriate hats and clothing, while simultaneously using sunscreen diligently enables them to not sit around the house the entire day.
The powerful African sun, however, may not be the only threat to African people with albinism. In parts of eastern and southern Africa, albinos live in fear of witch doctors who use body parts as ingredients and potions. Their unique skin condition makes them a highly valuable commodity to people who believe that certain body parts of people with albinism can transmit magical powers. As a result, people with albinism have been persecuted, killed, and dismembered.
These killings are not only taking place because of the presumed luck that albino body parts brought forth, but also because people with albinism are believed to be cursed and bring bad luck. Especially among East Africans, such persecutions of people with albinism ranging from rejection to murder have been taken place regularly.
Luckily, these people with albinism do not stand alone in fighting their fate. Many organisations attempt to help them in every possible way. Among these is the Dutch African Albinism foundation, that aims to both denounce the abysmal circumstances these people live in, and, maybe even more importantly, help to improve the quality of life among African albinos. It does so, mostly, by supplying resources and supporting the local production of sun lotion. Apart from sun lotion production, garments that protect the skin from being exposed to the mighty African sun are just as important.
And that’s where we came in. Teaming up with Colette, Jos, and Larissa from African Albinism Foundation, we went to Kenya to provide people with albinism with urgently needed caps. Even though this may only be a small contribution in solving their problems, we would like to show that even the smallest of gestures can mean the world to African people with albinism. Even our tiny, insignificant one-size-fits-all caps turned out to be of great help for people with albinism in their everlasting fight with the sun. It shows that it doesn't have to take much to be of assistance to these people.
Such external help is still much needed, sadly. The life-threatening situations that were mentioned earlier still loom around the corner, as awareness levels and subsequent measures are nowhere as far as they should be nowadays. So, please.. we need your help. Or, to be more precise, they need your help. Therefore, we have set up a construction to take most of the work off your hands:
We will donate 50% of every single purchase on our website from now on to the African Albinism Foundation throughout the December month.
If you don't believe us and you don't think the money ends up where it belongs - fine. Then please do go to the 'Help Us' section here of the African Albino Foundation website and donate whatever you are willing to miss. Some people out there in Africa will be forever grateful. And we will be so too.
Colette van Buchem