Deadly discrimination: because your skin is the wrong colour.

Our equality concerns in the UK pale in to insignificance compared with the terrors that some have faced in Africa due to their colour.

Last week in Malawi, I learned a little about the dangers that people with albinism have faced.  There are about 4,000 of them in a population of about 70 million.    Their lack of skin or hair pigmentation means that they stand out from others, often have visual impairments and have much higher risk of skin cancer.  But these are only part of the problems they face: women giving birth to a child with albinism have been accused of infidelity and abandoned by their husbands making life and finances even more difficult; people with the condition have struggled to be integrated in to their communities with disastrous consequences on their education and employment prospects.  Most sinister are the physical attacks – I was told that over 20 people with albinism have been killed over recent years –and three so far this year.  But death isn’t the end of it: some bodies are dug up and there is trade in their bones for ritual use in other countries.

I had an inspiring time with three people with albinism and some who support them as we all cooked local food together for a great feast.  The Government in Malawi is making progress: they are now making the special sun-screen available that will help give some cancer protection and have made the penal code tougher on such violence.  The Association of People with Albinism in Malawi  is supporting their members to create local self-support groups and is receiving help from overseas: you could donate glasses to correct short-sight to them for distribution.

Many people in Malawi are still close to their cultural and rural roots – I had an amazing experience cooking traditional food in one of the local villages and being invited to their dance celebration.  All this was arranged by Cephus Kadewere, the amazing head chef of the Latitude 13 hotel that hosted us.  He and General Manager, Mehul, were unstinting in their support and enthusiasm for the Baking Blind project:   we had some very special times together under the trees next to the hotel pool where Cephus shared some of his most popular recipes with me.

The Remembrance memorial in the centre of the capital, Lilongwe, is a massive construction marking all those who died in the two World Wars and other conflicts.  Perhaps we don’t pay enough attention to all those who fought alongside us in the past?  But it did strike the chord of how military service binds us together, from those who were commemorated there through James Holman who inspired the prize that funded my visit to my own time in the WRNS and Royal Navy.

Alongside all the progress and development being part-fuelled by overseas businesses and Governments, the sheer friendliness of the people of Malawi was the delight of the visit.  The people themselves make Malawi the true “warm heart of Africa”.

Now I’ve completed the second leg of my Baking Blind world tour thanks to the Holman prize run by San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind but there is still lots to do.  Over the next month or so, there are hundreds of hours of video to be edited, recipes to be written (www.bakingblind.com), more experiences to be shared and new cooking opportunities to be planned here in the UK and Europe.  Please keep watching and following to get the full story of my adventure.

Penny

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Baking Blind in Africa.

Lilongwe, capital of Malawi, is my last stop on this year’s Baking Blind trip (Hello Lilongwe).  I’ll be flying from Melbourne in Australia via a one day stop-over in Perth to cook with another former WRNS colleague, Lynda.  Then back in the air to Johannesburg in South Africa before reaching Malawi.

Again, I was in South Africa years ago for yet another World Blind Union conference in Cape Town.  I have some wonderful ceramics and glassware from that trip so I am looking forward to exploring the arts and crafts of Malawi.

Visiting another African country is going to be a fantastic new opportunity and experience.  I’m being hosted by the Latitude 13 hotel  where their head chef is already planning a menu of dishes to teach me.  And there will be several chances to cook with local people including those with visual impairments.  Perhaps most important of the whole trip will be the group of people with albinism (which can also affect their sight) who face many other challenges too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My impression is that many people in rural Malawi largely grow their own food.  After the last few weeks of more complicated cooking, it will be really good to get back to the basics of fresh home-grown produce.    Here, in the UK, we seem to have lost our connection with the soil and are struggling to re-capture the ethos of farm-to-table rather than flying in industrially-produced food.  There is much to learn from the approach in Malawi and the recipes will be on www.bakingblind.com

Meanwhile, Peter, who helps with my garden, has been telling me about Lake Malawi: apparently originally sea water and the home to the Malawi cichlids.  He’s been keeping tropical fish for years and these are amongst the most collectable.  They are “mouth-brooders” so the females, and sometimes the males, gather up the fertilised eggs in their mouths where they develop in a pouch near their “chin”.  When the baby fish are ready to hatch, they are blown back in to the water – but they can swim back in to the pouch if a predator is detected.  The adult fish can protect perhaps 200 babies in this way.

After Lilongwe, I’ll be back in the UK for Christmas, editing masses of videos with videographer Toby so that we can show you more of our trip.  But my time as one of the Holman prize-winners doesn’t end there: there will be more cooking in Hampshire and Europe in the new year which concludes in the autumn with a presentation to the prize organisers, San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  You’ll be able to see all of this on my YouTube channel.

 

Penny