For me, one of the most impressive parts of our shoot in Tanzania was our visit with Albino United to Mwanza, the bustling east African hub on the shores of Lake Victoria. The lake is the second largest body of freshwater in the world, looking much more like an ocean than anything else.
The journey began with the team taking a bus from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza. We had all been told this would take around 16 hours, across rough terrain. We were joined by a police escort who accompanied us at various parts of the journey as certain parts of the road were known danger spots for albinos.
Mwanza is an area rich in gold and minerals, as well as vast deposits of freshwater fish. These riches bring to the area all those seeking wealth and fortune. Within this community of miners and fisherman competing against each other, many turn to witchdoctors and traditional healers to help them achieve the wealth they desire. It is these witchdoctors and traditional healers that pedal the myth that albino body parts bring luck to those who use it. One of the things that ran through my mind was whilst it was calm and beautiful outside my window, the bus contained 11 albinos — which would fetch a sum of over $1 million in the illicit albino trade. Should someone have chosen to attack, even our little police escort would not be enough.
Video Preview: “Body Part Harvesting” — Witch doctors harvest body parts from albinos in the belief that they bring luck to their owner — resulting in brutal murder.
The morale on the bus, however, was high. Most of the players do not live near each other, and as such are unable to spend a lot of time together away from training. But here we were all confined to one space, and it was a touching experience to see the camaraderie of this team as they headed into the epicentre of albino murders. Far from choosing to stay in the safe confines of their homes in Dar es Salaam, they were all eager to prove to their fellow Tanzanians that they are just as capable as anyone else.
As the 16 hour mark neared, we were nowhere near Mwanza. This did not bother the team at all, who continued laughing and joking all the way. At 2am, around 20 hours into the journey, we got to Shynianga. At a road block police officers stopped us from going further due to the danger of the roads at night and the fact we were in a bus full of albinos. After much begging by the players and the coach, we were given a police escort 2 hours later. At 4am we left Shynianga.
We pulled into Mwanza around 6am. The majestic Lake Victoria came into view as we pulled up, and fishermen were bringing their catches in and starting to set up their markets. Again, I presumed that the team would be somewhat worried being here, but, perhaps because they were in a group, they were so excited by the prospect of teaching people here about their talents.
Video Preview: “Albinos United” — In Tanzania, where albinos are killed because of witchcraft, an albino soccer team formed to dispel the myths surrounding them.
Don’t miss Nat Geo Explorer “Albino Murders“ premiering August 24th at 10P et/pt.