Meet International Music Star

Supported by rock star, Madonna, meet Lazarus who is soon to become famous through a film about his life.  Cooking with the albino group in Malawi (  I learnt about the challenges they face and the success they achieve. With the pale skin and hair resulting from their albinism, these are people who stand out in Africa.    Some people still think that they are ghosts or spirits; many have been attacked in the past, some killed and their bones dug up for export for ritual magic.    Getting work is extra challenging especially as many have visual impairments too.  Thank goodness that the Government of Malawi is taking action to help them with special creams that are reducing the risk of skin cancer.

But, like people everywhere, members of this group still have ambition, determination, motivation and lust for life.  Take Virginia who has become a school teacher, influencing future generations to develop more inclusive attitudes.  Although she recognises that not everyone is kind and understanding of her situation, she continues undaunted to make the very best of her talents.

Lazarus is made of the same stuff: he had been playing music at every opportunity to provide for his family – doing what he can do best.  Now, with the help of Madonna, a film of his life and music is due for release.  He’s already been featured on the BBC World Service and his star will continue to shine.

Who would have believed that just hoping to cook with local people in Malawi would have brought me such revelations?  There is no end to the surprises  and abilities of people all over the world.  My thanks to everyone at the Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi.



Feast with Albino group

Open fires on the ground, peeling pumpkin leaves and sifting grit from rice  – my experience of every day cooking in Malawi.

I was cooking with a group of local people who have

albinism – the condition that means that they don’t have colour in their skin or hair.  That all makes life risky in the hot climate of Africa as they are very prone to skin damage and cancer from the sun.  And many have very limited eyesight too.

Malawi has a wonderful climate for growing staple ingredients such as maize (used in their nsima porridge-like

dish) and tomatoes (which feature in lots of food).  Sea fish is difficult to obtain because Malawi is land-locked but there are many fresh water fish available from Lake Malawi – and these are either dried or cooked fresh.

Lack of electricity and refrigeration determine how many food stuffs are used.  Much is dried so that it can be stored safely; potassium permanganate is used to kill off bugs; much of the cooking takes place outside in simple terracotta pots sitting on bricks above a fire; most food is boiled – again to kill any bacteria.

And everything that has food value is eaten: the leaves of okra, beans and pumpkins.

For me, the live chicken was probably the most disconcerting ingredient – especially as it was still laing eggs as it walked in to the compound.  I didn’t see it being despatched but there were more eggs inside that we discovered: hard-boiled after the bird had been cooked.

When food can be sparse and limited, its understandable that every resource has to be used  for the people to get the carbohydrates, vitamins and protein they need – especially as most have tough physical jobs.  It is very different to our “Western” lifestyles where food is  more than abundant and most of us do much less arduous office work.