For better or worse, baldness comes with an array of cultural meanings and associations — but in many parts of the world, wealth doesn’t appear often, or at all, on the list.
That’s not necessarily the case in parts of southeastern Africa, where officials have recently warned that bald people could be the subject of ritualistic attacks due to local beliefs about the condition.
Indeed, in May the bodies of two bald men were found in the Milange district of Mozambique, with police reporting that one of the men had been decapitated and that his organs had been removed. In June, three more bald men were found murdered in the Morrumbala district.
Police said that the grisly murders were likely conducted to aid in witchcraft. “The [killers’] motivations come from superstition and culture: the local community thinks bald individuals are rich,” national police spokesman Inacio Dina said.
In parts of Mozambique, the BBC reports, some people believe that bald people have heads which contain gold. In order to receive the gold, however, the head must be taken to a witch doctor who can extract it from the excised head and give it to the head’s “owner.”
So far, police report that two people — around the age of 20 — have been arrested in relationship to the crime, and that investigations into the deaths of the men will continue.
“This is a serious homicide crime,” Dina added. “Our current interest is to catch and hold responsible all those involved.”
This isn’t the region’s first run-in with body feature-induced murders, however. Indeed, people with albinism have been targeted by individuals who erroneously believe that their bodies contain magical powers and can bring good luck if used in traditional medicine. In 2015 alone, a charity that tracks albinism in Africa reported 36 attacks on people with albinism in Mozambique.
Next, read about the plight of individuals with albinism in Malawi.