Black & White
By Steven Carne, Aug 1 2013 04:37PM
Incredible day looking for locations for the drama. After a disappointing fruitless day last week trudging round dusty scattered rambling areas of houses surrounded by five feet high scrub and wild weeds today was a bonanza of excitement. Climbing up a small hill to a village area I was just beginning to think “this is such a waste of time” when we reached the summit of the hill to find a cluster of terracotta huts with straw roofs - shabby, scrappy but full of warmth and charm. Funny how a location can do that - you don’t know really what’s there but on those first few steps I knew this was our village.
We spent almost an hour walking around talking to the villagers and feeling the characters in the script were there with us - Nachisale’s house, Pilirani’s house, the bike path, the chief’s hill retreat... great stuff. It is seeming a little too easy but maybe that is because I have already gotten organised and the team from YONECO the Malawian partners we are working with are just lovely and seem to be getting the hang of thinking on their feet and planning ahead.
The forest we need is sorted - part of an estate owned by South African farmers. It was interesting to experience the “white power” sensation. As the friendly enough owner ambled across the large compound yard towards us I could feel the two Malawians, so confident and jovial with me and the team, shrink in stature and take two little steps back assuming that me the big white man would automatically begin proceedings with the other white man in the mix. I sidestepped and indicated the Malawians were the bosses and would introduce the project. My fantastic, quick-witted and bright assistant became sudued and quiet and found pushing the words out of his mouth difficult. Once he had finished I then felt ok to begin chatting. I hope that my prejudices against that strong Afrikaans accent didn’t show through too much. A member of the team spotted it but I handled it well. It wasn’t against him the white man - he was nice enough. But that shrinking in fear from the white skin was shocking to me, not a surprise just a shock and a disappointment. Try as we may it is so difficult to break those ingrained cultural perspectives and behaviours. Like the British class system where the upper class have always assumed the right over others, so too in Malawi on a Wednesday morning in an estate farm - the white man ruled and black skin was full of doubt and fear.
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