In Tanzania, people born with Albinism (a rare condition, in which a person lacks the pigment that gives skin, hair and eyes color) are believed to be ghosts or bad omens. However, their body parts are highly prized by Shamans, who use arms and legs, genitalia and blood, to make potions intended to bring wealth and good luck. Artist Tip Toland uses sculpture to bring attention to these nightmarish acts of mutilation, and the prejudice, ignorance, and superstition that motivates the attackers. When exhibited in 2014 at the Portland Art Museum, the portraits of anguished albino children were accompanied by a larger-than-life Mother Africa, who lies down and hopelessly gazes at the heavens.
Toland’s website makes note of the constant paranoia and anxiety with which a Tanzanian person with Albinism must live. The worried foreheads and slouched shoulders of the ceramic busts are fraught with these emotions. Rendered in a hyper-realistic style at monumental proportions, the portraits propel the horrific reality of a tragedy otherwise removed from the viewer, into one’s conscious.