Thursday, November 05, 2020

Warm Heart of Malawi

The World Through a Lens is a weekly series of explorations provided by the photojournalists of the New York Times  as a welcome diversion from the isolation many are experiencing during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Malawians: What turned a single visit to Malawi into a lifetime connection.
Photo credit: Marcus Westburg

The contribution of Sweden's Marcus Westberg begins with a two-day assignment in Malawi that has turned into a relationship lasting most of his adult life. We went to the small village of Senga Bay to take photos 14 years ago, when a water-supply well (borehole) was being installed. He was soon captivated by the country, the people, and the lake that helps to define both.

Over time, he came to understand the phrase Malawians use to describe their culture: the warm heart of Africa. His photo essay is a treasure; and though it captures a single recent journey, both the words and the images are borne of a connection built over more than a decade.

Please enjoy the photographs Westburg shares with us; you will feel the warmth and the heart. You will also gain some insight into matters that are important in Malawi and throughout many other countries of the African continent.

I am always intrigued by the map of Malawi -- the country and its eponymous inland sea are almost the same shape. 

BONUS: For his second entry in the NYT series, Westburg shares his experiences in and along the Luangwa River of Zambia. In this case, humans are not his focus: these photos are all about the charismatic megafauna.

Frolicking hippos -- their name is from the Greek for "river horse."
Photo: Marcus Westburg

If you like Westburg's work -- and how can you not? -- consider following his social-media links at the bottom of the article.

Lagniappe

I am grateful for Westburg's essay because he so beautifully conveys something similar to my own experiences in a couple different places. My choice of a human-centered photo and my awkward caption about finding Malawians in Malawi are deliberate. In 2006 --- around the same time as Westburg's first visit to Malawi -- I went to Nicaragua with the intention of leading a coffee tour there one time, and moving on to another coffee country the next year. I have taken more than 100 people there during 12 visits so far, and I am in touch with someone from Nicaragua almost every day. In turn, many of those 100 people who went with me for a single visit have returned and built long-term relationships. The reason: we did not just meet Nicaragua; we met Nicaraguans.

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