In Malawi, a young albino man is using music to fight discrimination and misconceptions about the genetic condition in a country where more than 100 people with albinism have been attacked since 2014.
As teens, Lazarus Chigwandali and his late brother, who also had albinism, played on the streets of Lilongwe, mostly to raise money to buy protective skin lotion.
He says in those days it was difficult to find skin lotion that would protect them from the sun, so they had sores all over their bodies. As a result many people discriminated against them because of the way their bodies looked.
Discrimination and attacks against albinos like Chigwandali continue. Some Africans believe their body parts, used in so-called magic potions, will bring good luck.
At 39, Chigwandali began composing songs about the myths and misperceptions about people with albinism.
Then he heard music producers from abroad wanted to meet him at his home village to record his music, something that worried his wife, Gertrude Levison.
She says she was afraid that maybe they wanted to kidnap them all. But she realized that it was a peaceful move when she heard her husband talking with a friend of his on the phone.
The recording deal enabled Chigwandali to produce a 30-track music album, Stomp on the Devil, which denounces attacks on albinos. It is due out in August
Esau Mwamwaya, is Chigwandali’s manager.
“With the challenge which people with albinism face in Malawi we felt like, with his powerful voice, he can be an instrument to send the message across the world that you know, people born with albinism, are just like anybody else,” Mwamwaya said.
Much work to be done
While some of his songs are playing on local radio stations, Chigwandali says there is still a long way to go before the attacks end.
He says there are still others who ignore the messages in his songs. This means a lot of work. But, he says, “We will soon start a nationwide tour to screen my documentary which shows attacks on people with albinism in Malawi.”
The documentary, produced by American pop star Madonna, is about the plight of albinos in Malawi.
His wife worries that Chigwandali’s growing fame could expose him and their two albino sons to potential attackers.
To ease their concerns, Chigwandali’s managers have launched a fundraising initiative to build a house for the family that will provide greater security.