14.03.2011 1

Monaco: Thought-provoking exhibition on Albinos in West Africa

Albinisme Noir & Blanc de peau

When photographer Claire Gillet, 24, was a volunteer in Mali she was acutely conscious of her white skin and the attention it attracted from the locals. It made her think – what must life be like for Albinos, the “white Africans”, living in Black Africa? The result is an exhibition of thought-provoking black & white photographs at the Jardin Exotique in Monaco which ends on 25th of March.

A group of people standing in front of the photographs
L-r: Jean-François Robillon, President of Monaco’s Conseil National, Claire Gillet, Sébastien Lubert, Secretary Exterior Relations, Olivier Chané, Chairman of Ashrama Productions and Jérôme Froissart, Director of Coopération Internationale, Monaco

The project is the fruit of a partnership between the Coopération Monégasque and ABIPA (Association Burkinabè pour l'Intégration des Personnes Albinos).

All 25 photos on show were taken in Burkina Faso where Claire, who comes from Grenoble, worked closely with Sandrine Ouedraogo to produce the photos and interviews which appear in the accompanying leaflet.

What is striking is the serious, almost contemplative poses adopted by many of her subjects which makes it hard to fathom what they are thinking – are they happy or not? What is life really like for them? Was this deliberate on her part? “Not at all – I use an old-fashioned Yashica which you hold at waist level, so you are looking down into the lens and not at the subject – it’s a much less aggressive approach than it can appear with modern cameras,” explains Claire. “I said I was taking a photo and they chose to adopt these poses which are reminiscent of a bygone era.”

All the subjects have a tale to tell and of course they are limited in what they can do without being too exposed to the sun. Sanon Fabéré, 44, president of ABIPA which was set up in 1999, remembers how other children used to pinch and slap him to see if he felt pain. Albinos he says are considered to be genies and to possess enormous powers.

Traore Djeneba from Gabon recounts how hairdressers used to keep her hair to sell as fetishes, and sadly even today her Albino son Abdul Aziz, 6, is spat on at school. On the other hand Traore Alex Lassina, Secretary General of ABIPA has had few problems and says attitudes vary from place to place.

The exhibition is entitled Albinisme Noir & Blanc de peau and offers a touching glimpse of the lives of people whose lack of pigmentation would go unnoticed in Europe. The photos are for sale and part of the proceeds will go to ABIPA. The exhibition is on until 25th of March and opening times are the same as those for the Jardin Exotique – 9am to 6pm. CL

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Comment by Black Albino | 06.05.2011

Great work. Great article. Just wanted to point out that while skin colour will go un-noticed in Europe, the albino is still noticeable there. The african features plastered to white skin often draws second looks, prolonged stares and rude comments. While an albino might somewhat be camouflaged from a distance, the pain of rejection once near others is horrendous.

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