In some parts of East Africa, widespread misconceptions and dangerous cultural superstitions regarding congenital disorders like albinism permeate through society like a foreboding plague. Justifying the mutilation and dismemberment of people born without skin pigmentation for those who prescribe to the belief that they are not harming “people”, but “ghosts” sent to curse their community. Simultaneously, because the body parts of people with albinism are also believed to possess magical properties that can bring wealth and good fortune, the threat of being brutalized, sold, and used by ruthless dealers and witchdoctors is a serious one. Unfortunately, it’s a threat that has yet to be eradicated.
The persecution of people with albinism in some parts of Africa is not an easy subject to approach on any level, let alone a creative one. It is, however, an important discussion to have if the aim is to spread awareness about this disturbing practice and to potentially prevent undue suffering in the future. Adding their voices to the growing discussion is writer, Erica J. Heflin, and artist, Amanda Rachels, who have joined together with Inverse Press, to produce the series, “Flesh of White”. This Kickstarter funded supernatural-horror project spans four issues, and while purely fiction, is inspired by the very real and horrifying atrocities plaguing certain areas of Africa.
WRITTEN BY: Erica J. Heflin
ART BY: Amanda Rachels
PUBLISHER: Inverse Press
RELEASE: Jan 1, 2013
“Flesh of White” follows Rehema, Idi, and their new son Kwasi, a Tanzanian family who are trying to protect the young boy from the perils that befall those born with albinism. Unfortunately, they live in a part of Tanzania where superstition runs rampant within its culture and society; and where unadulterated fear plays a destructive role in the deterioration of humanity, and the total absence of compassion.
Heflin demonstrates the level of unwavering belief in these ideologies throughout her script, which is culturally representative of only this particular aspect of Tanzania and its people. She writes in a way that is convincing and incredibly accessible for those not knowledgeably versed in the traditional and customary practices of certain Tanzanian cultural groups. And effectively evokes emotion in readers who will surely feel for the family and their struggles.
As it were, the mutilation and murder of people with albinism is most common in Tanzania, and the demand for “ghost” flesh comes at a high price, both literally and figuratively. In the first issue of “Flesh of White”, the Witch Doctor and his reaping Harvester come to learn of Kwasi’s existence, and will stop at nothing to claim his white flesh in order to concoct and sell potions believed to make people wealthy and prosperous. Rehema and Idi have a terrifying fight on their hands, but they will do everything in their power to protect their son.
The artwork by Rachels is beautifully illustrated. She has a knack for drawing characters with visually expressive faces that convey deep emotion; be they love, despair, anger or fear …etc. She does so in an impressively powerful way, producing a level of authenticity many artists strive for. Rachels portrays the brutally barbaric attacks against people with albinism, and those associated with them, in a way that should not be shocking given the reality of the world they live in, but the gruesome panels still manage to be overwhelmingly startling. Perhaps this is due to the accelerated pace of the narrative, and the vast amount of story written in a mere 20 pages. To depict such merciless bloodshed so soon in the series is widely unexpected, but arguably necessary in the grand scheme of things.
“Flesh of White” is very much a supernatural-horror comic. The horror aspect of the book is not derived from the genre specifically, but from the vile capabilities of man, and the horrifying crimes committed against humanity. Crimes that are still being committed today.
Being aware of this fact while reading Heflin and Rachels’ first installment of “Flesh of White” makes for a somewhat unsettling experience, but it’s one this reviewer recommends. Especially if it means an increase of awareness concerning the brutality people with albinism are subjected to. Efforts have been made by local governments to protect people with albinism in recent years, but not enough has been done to significantly reduce or eradicate the problem. The media is not as forthcoming as one would think regarding a serious topic such as this one, but Heflin and Rachels are doing their part to bring attention to this terrifying cultural phenomenon, and that is admirable.
Reviewed by – ShadowJayd