School of Religion, Philosophy & Classics

Masters Research on African Traditional Beliefs on Albinism

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Graduate Ms Zandile Ngubane’s Master of Arts in Ethics thesis offered a critical ethical analysis of African traditional beliefs about people living with albinism.

Ngubane argued that people living with albinism were socially excluded in some African traditional communities because they were not considered human beings.

‘Albinism seems to be a two-edge sword: on the one hand, it is believed that people with albinism are born with special powers that can bring wealth,’ said Ngubane. ‘On the other hand, people living with albinism are believed to bring bad luck and that having relations with them will cause ill fortune,’ explained Ngubane.

Her study highlights beliefs and perceptions, which view people with albinism as ghosts; that having sexual intercourse with a person living with albinism can cure HIV and AIDS, and that body parts of people living with albinism can make muthi (a traditional medicine prescribed by traditional doctors and herbalists).

‘Because of these beliefs, people living with albinism often live in fear of being killed, raped, discriminated against, alienated and abducted,’ she said.

‘It is against this backdrop that my research argues that albinism is a disorder which results in pigmentation therefore there is a need to ensure proper education in communities regarding albinism. People living with albinism are humans with rights and they are not ghosts, therefore they should be respected for their humanity,’ said Ngubane.

She thanked her family, friends and supervisor for their support. Ngubane plans to pursue a PhD in the future.

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