Ugandan fashion and lifestyle magazine, Satisfashion UG just put out its April issue and Balinda Musti, a Ugandan photographer and content creator is the cover story star where he shares his unique story, journey and experiences.
According to the publication:
What do you do when the largest organ in your body behaves differently? For 26-year-old Mustafa Ibrahim Balinda, also known as Balinda Musti, it has been a long, tedious journey to self-acceptance. He has vitiligo, a skin disorder that presents with white areas (called macules or patches) that appear on the skin. The patches don’t hurt and are non-contagious.
The drawback, one Balinda has had a generous share of, is the stigma around it.
“We don’t know how to treat people that are different,” He says,
People with vitiligo often feel embarrassed or anxious about their skin, owing to the stares, unkind comments, and superstitious approach towards it. This, of course, leads to low self-esteem and depression. Globally, about 1% or so of the population has vitiligo.
Read excerpts from the interview below:
Balinda On His Childhood:
My dream, as a child, was to be a renowned footballer and swimmer, but things changed at the age of 6. I developed a white patch in my armpit that I didn’t notice early. As soon as I did, I got concerned and alerted my parents. Their question was if there was pain or itching around it. There was none. They asked me to not take it seriously.
Over time, the patch got bigger spreading way beyond the armpit. Again, I got concerned and let my parents know. This time, they made an arrangement for me to see a specialist. Upon taking some tests, results showed that my skin cells were down and failing to produce colour. The specialist went on to explain that the skin disorder is called ‘Vitiligo’. He asked me to prepare to see even more patches. At that age, of course, I couldn’t comprehend many of these things.
I was immediately put on treatment. That day I left with medication to cover 2 weeks, after which I had to return for more. However, the medication was quite pricey for my parents. Besides, consultation fees to see the specialist staggered around Shs 50,000 per visit. It was pricey. That wasn’t all – as much as I took my medication as prescribed, the patches were still spreading like wildfire. As a child, this was even more disturbing to watch. I just got up one day and discontinued the medication.
Musti’s Activism & Celebration:
Thanks to Tiktok, fashion photographer and designer Banji Bagwana once contacted me with an invitation to shoot pictures for Louis Magazine, a French publication. After a while, he put me in touch with Martin Senkubuge, a model and activist with vitiligo. He had put together a vitiligo awareness exhibition at Makerere University. That day I met other young people with the skin disorder. It was surreal just seeing myself in them and their stories. We planned to come together on the next exhibition; support and encourage people like us, and also sensitise Ugandans about the truths and myths around vitiligo. This plan didn’t come to fruition because shortly after, we were locked down. We, however, are planning to make it happen very soon. Away from that, I’m using every opportunity I get to enlighten the masses that vitiligo is not witchcraft, it’s not contagious, and we need to support and love everyone with it.
Around that time, I discovered TikTok and explored it. On the platform, I found people doing what they loved to do – dancing, singing, acting, etc. In celebration of who I am, I decided to create all my TikToks shirtless. I was overwhelmed by the support and positive reactions. This encouraged me to keep going. I now post a new TikTok every other day. This has been one of the silver linings; I get to celebrate myself and also create awareness around vitiligo. I have more than 88,000 followers on the app, who constantly flood my DM and comments with words of encouragement.
Check out his TikTok here: https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMLQejCBH/
Balinda On His Photography:
A friend introduced me to photography. I wasn’t interested at first, but he believed I had the creative edge to do it. It wasn’t until I received some money off it that I went all in. I practiced with a lot more passion, and have since shot many different things; from weddings to birthdays and some portraits. At the moment I don’t have my own equipment due to the high cost, so I simply hire whenever I need to. It’s an interesting journey though. Follow Balinda Photography here.