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My Vitiligo Story | From Setshaba Mamabolo’s Diary

Setshaba Jermine Mamabolo, an Information Technology student from South Africa shares his some bits from his vitiligo journey.

Setshaba Mamabolo

I am currently 27, turning 28 this October. I currently reside in Pretoria, the Capital City of South Africa. Apart from studying Information Technology, I am the Chairperson of the DREAMs RSA NPO. After the last election I managed to retain my role as a chairperson without any challenger. As a Christian, I also sing in a male choir. I was promoted to being one of the Senior Male Choir Choristers/Conductors.

Lately, I have been regarded as model. My first shoot was in 2012, with Reatile Moalusi. The images which were taken then are making waves around now. They have been published in newspaper and magazines, also appearing on a news channel as they have been stored in a Gallery along with other pictures of people with vitiligo. Besides shooting with Reatile, I have shoot with other photographers like Fikile Booysen, Naomi Kudzaishe Gumbo and Mo Matli. The aim is to raise awareness on vitiligo and its working!

I started noticing my first vitiligo patch around the age of 5, in 1996. At first, as a child, it was tough, but the support from my mother and sister changed that. At a very young age my mother usually said l should always thank God for my vitiligo. She would say that out of every living person, God has chosen me to display his magic. My Sister, Shibe, too always emphasized that I am beautiful. It helped me stop asking myself questions like “Why me?”

As a child I was able to have a lot of friends, with whom I could play with. I managed to have many friends around even as a teen. I always had the advantage of being liked by people. At school, I was made the Class Captain and even as an adult I have not encountered any difficulties yet. I am a free person.

Lucky enough, I never experienced any bullying. However, I still encounter people, who assume my vitiligo to be a burn scar or skin peeling. Apparently for some, I am cursed and carrying something hereditary. Some even think that vitiligo is transferable via kissing and sex. As long as people assume it to be painful, they suggest performing ancestral rituals to scare it away.

However, I stopped being a fan of visiting skin specialists, doctors and using treatments during my teens. At first, I was very lazy to apply treatments. Subsequently, I lost interest in all treatments around 2009. I regard my vitiligo as a gift – a natural body of art.

Though South Africa is one of the most advanced countries in terms of media coverage and knowledge, I only know of two actors with vitiligo. There is an actress in her 40s who just stopped using makeup to hide her vitiligo. Then, there’s an actor who is a regular Soapy. However, his vitiligo on the hands is never noticeable on camera. Hence, I strongly believe that people with vitiligo are underrepresented in popular culture. We need to see more people like us in cinema and TV shows so that 1% of the world’s population doesn’t feel isolated.

I normally get motivated by seeing many people with vitiligo posting their unedited pictures. I am the one who loves pictures and a take a lot of them and smile a lot alone by just looking at them. I also love movies based on true stories.

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