Cynthia MaiWa Sitei

Portrait of Cynthia MaiWa Sitei

MaiWa is originally from Kenya and moved to England in 2010 and then to Wales in 2017, where she pursued a Masters in Documentary Photography at the University of South Wales, graduating in 2019. Her first project “Wundanyi” was about stigma and stereotypes around rape, exploring the need and importance for rape to become a household conversation. Stories played a big impact in her upbringing; they were a form of entertainment during and mostly after dinner and a reliable method of communication in bringing people together and creating spaces where everyone was one, regardless of the difference in age, wealth and health.

After graduating with a BA in Psychology with Criminology in 2017, MaiWa knew exactly where she needed to go to achieve what she wanted to do in life. An MA at University of South Wales meant she could learn and understand how to use photography to impact change and create dialogue in villages where custom and traditions are different. She gains more in photography through research, the places it takes her, the people she encounters and those who allow her into their world – most importantly, because her crave for stories is never ending. Procrastination for her means a good game in tennis and listening to music or watching YouTube.

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If This is a Human: A Great Curiosity

Albino – a person or animal having congenital absence of colouring pigment in skin and hair, which are usually white and eyes which are usually pink and unduly sensitive to light. Albino’tic a. [sp. & Port., orig. of white Negroes, (L. albus) white + ino (ine)] (The Concise Oxford Dictionary).

In some parts of the world, albinism is believed to bring good health, financial and material wealth. When examined from the position of being blemished humans, people with albinism are discriminated against in some cultures, and even killed because they are considered a curse to communities. Their presence is believed to result in natural calamities such as droughts and floods, and to cause human, animal and plant diseases and death (Machoko, 2013). Research suggests that people with albinism live in ambiguity, a factor that has fuelled the curiosity of the occult market. They also suffer from a lack of scientific and technological understanding, as well as the failure of education to improve their material prosperity.

My ongoing project is about questioning, highlighting and understanding how societies reacted to the presence of people with albinism before and after its formal classification in medicine. Through the medium of photography and researching archival materials, I intend to highlight and analyse the long history of albinism to shed new light on the troubling dichotomies of race and skin colour. It is a project highlighting the lack of representation, justice and social inclusion of people with albinism in Wales and England. Research and images used in this project have been conducted and captured in four different countries; Wales, England, Kenya and South Korea.