Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What I'm listening to: The Imaginary Albino

 An old friend of mine--well, acquaintance, really, as I hardly ever see him--recently started promoting a documentary that he's been working on, called 'The Imaginary Albino'. I know Garth from my activist days, where we sat at many strategy meetings & rallied at dozens of the same demonstrations. Recognizable because of his height & his albinism, very committed & articulate, Garth often served as media spokesperson, whether he wanted to or not. However, I don't remember him talking about having albinism, or the struggles he faced because of it.

When I heard Garth was making this documentary, I was really curious. I looked through his Tumblr page at all the pop culture 'albinos' (think for a minute of how many weirdos & villains have albinism in movies like The DaVinci Code, The Matrix & The Princess Bride) & wrote in my calendar the date & time that the documentary would air on CBC radio. Unfortunately, I ended up working on writing that night & had to download the podcast instead.

Consequently, I found myself listening to Garth's documentary on my long Skytrain commute the next morning. Garth's analysis of the pop culture portrayal of albinos as otherworldly & usually evil characters was wryly humourous. Listening to his mother talk about his birth, hearing his experiences going to a National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH) conference & being surrounded by other people with albinism was powerful. When he delved into some of the stories of people from Africa that he met at the NOAH conference, I was shocked at the violence & the persecution they faced. Hearing about a boy with albinism whose own parents had been complicit in his attack had me in tears. Blinking furiously behind my sunglasses, I couldn't fathom such an attitude toward a child.

I highly recommend you listen to Garth's documentary, "The Imaginary Albino". The plight of Africans with albinism is dire & the more people know about it, the better. You can listen right here on the CBC Radio Ideas page, or download the podcast. A warning to parents: it is audio only & doesn't dwell on the gory details of the attacks & murders, but you probably won't want your young children to listen to it.

For more info, visit Garth's website.

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