Myths & Superstition

What does Myths & Superstition means?

Myths are often long-lost fables that are told about early history, ancient legends, or supernatural beings. Other than this, myths contain a moral and were often told through societal traditions, customs, and rituals as a way to sustain social order. While superstition is a belief in supernatural influence where practices are based around this sole belief. A superstition can involve witchcraft, religious ideals, and even evil spirits or ghosts. With a myth being a story or fable that is used to explain a natural event, their primary focus is to center around events that involve supernatural beings that need to be rationalized because they are unknown to humankind. A superstition, on the other hand, is a belief or practice that is based within supernatural influence and focuses directly on objects and animals that signify the supernatural or bad luck and are used to embrace the supernatural rather than to rationalize it.

Myths & Superstition about Albinism

Down below are some of misunderstood myths and superstitions about albinism (including the truth behind it):

Persecution of people with Albinism


Based on the belief that certain body parts of albinistic people can transmit magical powers. Such superstition is present especially in some parts of the African Great Lakes region, it has been promulgated and exploited by witch doctors and others who use such body parts as ingredients in rituals, concoctions and potions with the claim that their magic will bring prosperity to the user. As a result, people with albinism have been persecuted, killed and dismembered, and graves of albinos dug up and desecrated. At the same time, people with albinism have also been ostracised and even killed for exactly the opposite reason, because they are presumed to be cursed and bring bad luck. The persecutions of people with albinism take place mostly in Sub-Saharan African communities, especially among East Africans.

Albinism occurs in both males and females and is not specific to any race or ethnic group. Statistics show that 50% of albinistic people in Tanzania have a known albinistic relative,although very few understand or are educated about the medical and genetic causes of this condition. Many believe it is a punishment from God or bad luck, and that their "disease" could be contagious, which is often the view of even members of the medical and professional community. These misconceptions, coupled with the lack of education, are some of the key reasons that albinism is so heavily persecuted. This lack of knowledge about people with albinism means that folktales and superstition in the name of witchcraft take the place of medical and scientific facts in the minds of many native Africans, with and without albinism, which in turn has major effects on the social integration of albinistic people into African society.Ninety-eight percent of albinos die by the age of fortyfor reasons which could easily be prevented

African rituals and spiritual ideas about albinism have led to the brutal murder of and attacks on innocent men, women and especially children. These ideas have been around for many generations, but in recent years witch doctors have been teaching misconceived ideas about the promise of wealth, success and power when albino hair or limbs are used in a potion as part of witchcraft practices. This has gained public attention nationally and internationally as these crimes have been reported as crimes against human rights. Infanticide, kidnapping, amputations, and decapitations, committed for purposes of supplying highly valued body parts used for amulets, which are then sold in underground witchcraft market. Therefore, this causes great unrest and angst among the albino population, who must be protected and often live in a state of solitude simply to protect their own lives and to prevent being hunted like animals.

This threat to albinos has the potential to cause extreme trauma and stress in their daily lives, which are already impacted by the stress of their condition, affecting skin and eyesight, placing albinos in a constant state of insecurity and distrust. Nearly all cultures in the region of east Africa held and some still hold the view that albinos are less desirable beings who are less than human. Therefore, homes and schools specifically for albinos, such as Buhangija Albino School, have been created as safe environments for learning, growing and permanently residing. Many children fear to ever return to their families, believing that they may be killed by even their closest relatives. Ukerewe Island is a key example of this, displayed in the film home to a large community of people with albinism where 62 albinos reside, most likely to remain in solitude and away from albino hunters.


The discrimination of albinos is often demonstrated by family members and relatives especially at birth, and ill-treatment by general society is widespread where there are severe issues of social exclusion and stigma. People with albinism have the right to live without fear or bullying, discrimination, social exclusion, killing and dismemberment. . In Zimbabwe albinos have been given the name sope which indicated that they are possessed by evil spirits, and in Tanzania they are known as nguruwe meaning 'pig', or zeru which means 'ghost'. People living with albinism are often referred to by derogatory names such as 'inkawu', the Nguni term for white baboon, 'isishawa' a Zulu translation of a person who is cursed as well as 'zeru zeru' which means ghost like. The Swahili term 'zeru' is also commonly used in Tanzania

Eye Opener Films about Albinism

Films which have been created are also helping to raise awareness and tell the stories of persecuted persons with albinism, beginning with In My Genes, a 2009 Kenyan documentary directed by Lupita Nyong'o (later a key actor from the 2013 film Twelve Years a Slave). It was followed in 2010 by White and Black: Crimes of Color, by Canadian filmmaker Jean-François Méan, which tells the story of Vicky Ntetema, a Tanzanian journalist who investigated the trade for albinotic body parts in Tanzania. This film became the cornerstone of a national campaign sponsored by Under the Same Sun to end the wave of violence. After the film's broadcast, the murder rate, which had been steady for three years, dropped by 90%. White Shadow, a German–Italian–Tanzanian 2013 drama film written, produced and directed by Noaz Deshe, drew international attention to the issue, screening at various film festivals, winning the Lion of the Future Award at the Venice festival. Also released in 2013, In the Shadow of the Sun, a documentary filmed in Tanzania over the course of six years by Harry Freeland, featured the struggles of Josephat Torner, a campaigner for de-mystification of the superstitions about albinistic people and their use for witchcraft; and teenaged Vedastus, who hopes to survive the persecution of persons with albinism to adulthood. And also The Beautiful Ones Are Born, a yet to be released short film by one of the youngest Nigerian Film maker Dami Taiwo.

The Ugly Truth About Persecution of People with Albinism

In Tanzania, an albino girl named Kabula was walking home from school. A man spotted her while driving, and figured out where she lived. A few days later, three men showed up to Kabula’s home. They cut off her arm, threw it in a plastic bag, and ran away. Kabula is not alone. Hundreds of albino people in Tanzania have suffered the same fate, and are now waiting for prosthetics donated from overseas charity organizations. It is difficult to imagine how anyone could be so cruel to a child, but selling albino body parts to witch doctors can make someone rich. The average income for someone in Tanzania is only about $400 per year. Body parts are sold piece by piece at around $2,000 each, and an entire corpse can go for as much as $75,000. In a world where people are living in extreme poverty, and superstition tells them that albinos are not even human, it is easy to see why people are willing to do it without remorse.