Albino man’s music salves the soul

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Mthuthuzeli Ngqoba, 32, is like most people in Grahamstown. He was born and raised there, and he speaks the native Xhosa language. He isn’t particularly well-off, but he earns enough to put food on the table and to help pay for a small two-bedroom home that he shares with his parents.

But “Thuthuzi,” as his friends call him, is an outsider. He is an albino.

Out of all the ethnicities on the African continent, Albinism is least prevalent among Xhosa people. Thuthuzi is the one out of every 4,794 people that is born albino, with little to no skin pigmentation, poor eyesight, and a high sensitivity to light. His eyes are crossed and move rapidly back and forth, another symptom of his condition that makes reading extremely difficult.

Growing up, Thuthuzi was tormented by other children at school and on the streets. In the township — where nearly 100% of the residents are black, Xhosa people — his pale skin made him an easy target for prejudice and verbal abuse. They called him names like “white man” or “baboon.”

Music became his outlet for the stress and pressures of being different. Since his eyes and skin are so sensitive to light, he spends much of his time inside his home with the windows and doors closed, to block out the sun’s harmful rays. But rather than feel isolated, Thuthuzi views that time alone as an opportunity to hone his musical talent.

He is completely self-taught — aside from a few pointers from friends — and plays both the guitar and keyboard with striking proficiency. Thuthuzi was a member of a local band for a number of years, and now writes his own music with the dream of someday owning his own recording studio.