Yrneh G. Brown

Major and Classification

Fine Arts

Faculty Mentor

Steven J. Ross, Ph.D. and Paul Von Blum, Ph.D.


Roski School of Fine Arts

McNair Project

“Visibly Invisible: Albinism, Myth, and the Supernatural in Tanzania

Project Abstract

Albinism is a hereditary condition and occurs only when both parents have albinism genes. Concerned by recent attacks and killings perpetrated against persons with Albinism in Tanzania, I traveled to this country in order to conduct an ethnographic research project focusing on the social context surrounding the understanding of albinism and treatment of albino people. Qualitative methods were employed to gather data including individual interviews, focus groups, and observations. There is no real tangible governmental support for people with albinism; that is, there are no policies, programs, and funding for this population.  Most in the country are un-educated about albinism. My investigation sought to explore the following: What gender and age are the main target for attacks and murder? Why should anyone care? What are the perceptions of this community?  What is the government doing to assist this vulnerable community?  I interviewed members of the Albino community and a wide cross-section of people unaffected by albinism, both in villages and cities in Tanzania’s Mainland and the Island of Zanzibar.  Findings indicate that the socio-economic, physical, and psychological suffering of the albino community is fueled and perpetuated by specific cultural myths, by a shortage of people with albinism having visibility in the public arena, and by a widespread cultural “miseducation” about albinism. This research indicates the need to educate Tanzania’s approximately 120 ethnic groups about albinism through public service announcements and an arts-related teaching tool using works of art created and inspired by albinism. Furthermore, the government needs to take more action to protect this vulnerable population that is misunderstood, harassed, and even killed