ABUJA, NIGERIA � Damilola Ogunsi, 40, � popularly known by his stage name, the Gold Fish � is an albino on a mission.
As a teenager he suffered intense discrimination, but Ogunsi says acting gave him a voice.
“My journey started when I was a young boy,” he said. “I remember that the first thing my parents told me when I was five years old, they took me to a party, and one way or the other while the party was going on they dropped the mic, and I found my way there, I picked up the mic and started talking and I entertained them a little bit.”
Before his acting career started, Ogunsi worked as a merchant banker for a nearly decade.
Now, he frequently appears on Nigerian movie screens, though Ogunsi says he’s got even bigger dreams.
“In my head, I’m James Bond, I’m Batman, I’m Iron Man,” he said. “Those are the kind of roles I’m dreaming about playing and I’m training myself and working. I’ve started hitting the gym, trying to build my Hollywood body because those are the things I want to do and places I want to go and, eventually, start producing my own films.”
Some two million Nigerians live with albinism, according to the Abuja-based Albino Foundation. Many face discrimination and marginalization on a daily basis.
Although a few like Ogunsi have risen above the societal bias against their condition, the situation is serious, says Demian Ivom of the Albino Foundation.
“There are villages and communities where persons with albinism or children with albinism, once the mother delivers the child with albinism, they’ll be killed. In Abuja here, there are about sixty communities where this is happening,” Ivom said.
Albinism is the partial or complete absence of melanin production in the body. The condition increases the risk of skin cancer.
A foundation was set up in 2006 to combat the stigma and discrimination.
“The Albino Foundation was created to debunk the wrong information that people have about people with albinism and to create an equal opportunity for everybody with albinism to thrive in the society,” said Afam Kasim, spokesperson for the Albino Foundation.
The government adopted a national policy on albinism in 2012 to help albinos enter the Nigerian mainstream and improve their representation in various sectors.
As that effort continues, albinos like Ogunsi are getting ahead.
Source: Voice of America