salif keita’s fights for fellow albinos with his music

November 23, 2018
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We all know how lethal unfounded beliefs can be. On the African continent, a person with albinism has to contend with the dangers associated with attitudes around albinism. Superstition is a powerful yet tainted force in a way that endangers the lives of those with the albino gene. Malian singer, songwriter and albino activist Salif Keita wants to highlight that specific plight through his music, reports The Grio.

The superstitions regarding albinism vary across the continent but many falsely believe albinos are cursed, being punished by ancestral spirits; and their limbs are trinkets that bring luck and fortune. The results of such beliefs result in bullying, harassment and gruesome murders that trap those with albinism in a holding pattern dictated by fear and violence.

Keita found music through his condition and is using it as a force for good. “When I was a child, I had to give up school because I had vision problems caused by the albinism,” Keita said. “So, I got a guitar.” Keita experienced his bullying growing with albinism, even struggling as a young man to make a name for himself in music. That didn’t deter the musician though, as he worked to build his visibility in order to make albinism and the related dangers visible.

The four-time Grammy nominee hosted an international forum and benefit dedicated to protecting albino’s on the African continent.  The benefit concert served a commemoration of the death of Ramata, a 5-year-old  living with albinism who was kidnapped, tortured and killed in her small town of Fana. “Never again,” he said at the event. “I have the strong hope that people will understand that we are born in the same way and we have the same rights as everyone else.”

Keita’s work also goes beyond benefit concerts and forums, as the musician is helping the albino community directly through the Salif Keita Global Foundation. The foundation advocates for the protection of those with albinism through education to combat stigmas around the condition and free healthcare provided to people living with albinism.

Keita’s combination of activism, art and identity provide an effective and powerful blueprint for activism in art. His community will be better for it and we will always stan art as activism. Hats off to Keita.