Patricia Willocq and her photographic project called White Ebony recently achieved two highly recognised awards. The esteemed photographer won the One Eyeland Photographer of the Year 2015 award for her evocative shot of an albino baby cradled in his Mother’s hands – this is a gold medal achievement. Her photographic book White Ebony, that was published with the help of the Gertler Family Foundation (GFF), also attained a gold medal with the Gold Book of the Year 2015 award.
White Ebony – a study of albinism in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
White Ebony contains engaging and deeply moving photographs of a stigmatised minority living in the DRC – people suffering from albinism. These individuals lack pigment in their skin, making it extremely white or mostly white with dark spots where pigment is present on the skin. They also have unusually light hair and light green or blue eyes, which may even appear red when seen at different angles. In African countries like the DRC people mostly have dark brown skins and eyes, and black hair. Those with albinism are considered abnormal and are regularly shunned by society. Besides the rejection, they also usually have problems with their vision and a severe sensitivity to the sun – often resulting in skin cancer. The photographs in White Ebony are a stunning representation of albinos seen in a different, more positive, and more gentle light.
Promoting awareness of albinism
Patricia Willocq not only takes stunning and emotionally evocative shots, she also uses her talent to promote awareness of the plight of these unfortunate individuals. Born and raised in the DRC, the photographer has travelled around the world and has made several publications and won several awards. Her first photo of a person with albinism was published in the DRC in 2013. The photo achieved an Honourable Mention of UNICEF Photo of the Year award.
In a few days, albinism charity Under The Same Sun (UTSS) will host a Pan Africa Albinism Conference that will center on increasing awareness towards the difficulties PWA (people with albinism) are facing, and a better understanding towards their condition. The conference will be offered in three languages, English French, and Kiswahili, in order to reach as many people as possible. Many organizations will show their support by participating, including international organizations and PWA groups — and the Gertler Family Foundation (GFF) will also be taking part in the conference, represented by its Communication Manager, Mamie Kabongolo.
UTSS is a global organization dedicated to improving the wellbeing of people suffering from albinism, with an emphasis on the Tanzanian community. PWA often suffer from unjust discrimination and intolerance that can result in violence and even death. The UTSS hopes to relieve their sufferings by way of educating the public on albinism through peaceful advocacy, such as the first Pan Africa conference, which they will host on November 19-22.
The GFF has been actively supporting people suffering from albinism, specifically in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Notably, the “White Ebony” project, which GFF sponsors, focuses on increasing awareness and providing support to PWA. Additionally, the organization is helping 20 albino children in the DRC achieve education from primary school to university, by addressing their daily needs. GFF Communication Manager Mamie Kabongolo will take an active part in the upcoming conference, in a joint effort to promote a more understanding, respectful treatment of PWA.
Albino Children Get an Education Thanks to the Gertler Family Foundation and Mwimba Texas
In 2014 the Gertler Family Foundation (GFF) answered an appeal made by the Mwimba Texas Foundation and made a commitment to help albino children achieve a decent education. The initiative was launched with a project that involves sponsoring the education of 20 children with Albinism. As with many of the GFF’s other ongoing projects, this was not a one-off gesture of goodwill. The Foundation pledged to continue sponsoring the children from the time that they start pre-school until when they reach adulthood and complete their university education. In addition to settling the annual school fees, the Gertler Family Foundation also takes care of some of the required supplies that any child needs and deserves for school.
A branch of the White Ebony project
This education initiative forms part of a larger GFF-supported project in aid of albinos, called White Ebony. From the time it was founded in 1998, the White Ebony project has been striving to improve the lives of people with albinism. Through this collaboration with Mwimba Texas, many of the objectives of White Ebony can be achieved.
The project’s widely covered celebration event took place on Friday 4 September 2015 in Kinshasa, and attended by top representatives of the program as well as approximately 500 individuals from the albino community. Well-known figures included the albino singer Christian Muyoli, a representative of the Kinshasa governor, and the albino activist Yan Mambo. The Mwimba Texas Foundation handed the school supplies to the project’s beneficiaries during the ceremony. Spokesperson of the Gertler Family Foundation, Mamie Kongolo, highlighted the organization’s commitment to ongoing support for the cause, and explained that donating a considerable volume of school supplies relieved parents of pressure and enabled children to start off their school year on a positive note.