Albinism pageant in Zimbabwe joyfully breaks down prejudice | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

Albinism pageant in Zimbabwe joyfully breaks down prejudice

Associated Press
1210041_web1_1210041-4630d298b0bd4f138d99339d6a4e4055
AP
Ayanda Sibanda smiles, after being crowned Miss Albinism Zimbabwe 2019 at an albino pageant held in Harare, early Saturday, May 25, 2019. About 70,000 of Zimbabwe’s estimated 16 million people are born with albinism, according to government figures. They often stand out, making them a subject at times of discrimination, ridicule and dangerously misguided beliefs. The Mr. and Miss Albinism Zimbabwe competition, now in its second year, is a chance to push back. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
1210041_web1_1210041-25d55e66ac0b4e46a64cf5762285e117
AP
Edson Mambinge, centre, is accompanied on stage after winning the Mr Albinism Zimbabwe 2019 at an albino pageant held in Harare, early Saturday, May 25, 2019. About 70,000 of Zimbabwe’s estimated 16 million people are born with albinism, according to government figures. They often stand out, making them a subject at times of discrimination, ridicule and dangerously misguided beliefs. The Mr. and Miss Albinism Zimbabwe competition, now in its second year, is a chance to push back. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
1210041_web1_1210041-16a8e1aaa8ae4c3286ec80cb6417cce3
AP
Contestants are seen during rehearsals for the Miss Albinism Zimbabwe 2019 at an event in Harare, Friday, May 24, 2019. About 70,000 of Zimbabwe’s estimated 16 million people are born with albinism, according to government figures. They often stand out, making them a subject at times of discrimination, ridicule and dangerously misguided beliefs. The Mr. and Miss Albinism Zimbabwe competition, now in its second year, is a chance to push back. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
1210041_web1_1210041-e84f383cad644d1bb877bc56fb870e79
AP
Edson Mambinge is crowned Mr Albinism Zimbabwe 2019 at an albino pageant held in Harare, early Saturday, May 25, 2019. About 70,000 of Zimbabwe’s estimated 16 million people are born with albinism, according to government figures. They often stand out, making them a subject at times of discrimination, ridicule and dangerously misguided beliefs. The Mr. and Miss Albinism Zimbabwe competition, now in its second year, is a chance to push back. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
1210041_web1_1210041-fa265f9de8b14dada1ba69fb3e51639b
AP
A contestant walks on stage, during the Mr and Miss Zimbabwe Albinism pageant held in Harare, early Saturday, May 25, 2019. About 70,000 of Zimbabwe’s estimated 16 million people are born with albinism, according to government figures. They often stand out, making them a subject at times of discrimination, ridicule and dangerously misguided beliefs. The Mr. and Miss Albinism Zimbabwe competition, now in its second year, is a chance to push back. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
1210041_web1_1210041-5a25d3a8fb474846a6e86172523f11af
AP
Ayanda Sibanda, centre, smiles, after being crowned Miss Albinism Zimbabwe 2019 at an albino pageant held in Harare, early Saturday, May 25, 2019. About 70,000 of Zimbabwe’s estimated 16 million people are born with albinism, according to government figures. They often stand out, making them a subject at times of discrimination, ridicule and dangerously misguided beliefs. The Mr. and Miss Albinism Zimbabwe competition, now in its second year, is a chance to push back. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Ayanda Sibanda, a model with albinism, has invariably been called “yellow” or “white” by friends and even some relatives. But she hardly recalls anyone referring to her by her actual race.

“I am black, that’s what I thought, but then I am always made to feel otherwise,” said the 18-year old who was crowned Miss Albinism Zimbabwe on Friday night.

At the pageant, competitors and organizers spoke frankly about color and prejudice.

About 70,000 of Zimbabwe’s estimated 16 million people are born with albinism, according to government figures. They often stand out, making them a subject at times of discrimination, ridicule and dangerously misguided beliefs.

“Some have superstitions that we can bring luck or cure HIV,” said Brenda Mudzimu, organizer of the pageant, one of a growing number of such events in Africa .

In nearby Malawi and Tanzania, albinos are sometimes killed for their body parts for use in witchcraft. No such killings have been recorded in Zimbabwe. But people with albinism say life is still tough.

The Mr. and Miss Albinism Zimbabwe competition, now in its second year, is a chance to push back.

“I want it to be normal for an albino girl to achieve without it being a newspaper headline,” Ayanda told The Associated Press. “They never say a black girl won Miss Zimbabwe. But if I were to win it, they would all say an albino girl won.”

Friday night’s crown was her second in just weeks. Last month she was crowned second princess of Miss Teen Zimbabwe. “It was open to every race,” she said. But she said she has been told she lost some other pageants only because of her albinism.

She and others, including university students and a nurse, strutted down the tiny runway Friday night to Ed Sheeran’s hit song “Perfect,” posed for judges and answered questions to cheers from the crowd.

The loudest cheers were for the male models, competing for the first time.

“My God, he is such a hunk,” shouted one woman in the crowd. “This is what I call a real man,” yelled another as the eventual winner of Mr. Albinism, Edson Mambinge, a 21-year-old fitness trainer, strolled by.

“When I am modelling, albinism is not my peculiarity. My fitness is,” Mambinge said.

Amping up the energy, poet Rufaro Chinyanga went lyrical to unpack the racial complexities.

“Walking down the streets I hear these voices, ‘You ghost, you pig, you half caste’ and I go home with my heart in my hands and I say, ‘Mother, tell me the truth, did you have an affair with a white man?’ And she looks at me and says, ‘My son, you are just white yet black, black as they are.’”

The crowd snapped fingers in eager response.

“These are life experience lyrics. I am speaking on behalf of myself and for all the people with albinism,” Chinyanga said afterward.

The battle to impress pageant judges started three days earlier at a boot camp with lessons in catwalking and confidence-building. Beauty pageants are popular in this southern African country, and even pre-school children compete for regional titles.

Putting this event together was a “nightmare,” however, because of lack of adequate sponsorship, said organizer Mudzimu.

Winners walked away with mobile phones, and the Miss Albino winner will attend a confidence-building and women’s workshop in neighboring Botswana, she said. The male winner will travel to neighboring South Africa for a grooming session.

Mudzimu said she hoped more sponsors will chip in as the pageant grows and gains more popularity “like the so-called normal ones.”

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.