The people of northern Malawi were surprised that we existed. "Ah Madam! We thought you were propaganda" they confided as we squeezed between them on Matolas.
In a calculated effort to draw in the North Bakili Maluzi rumbled into Mzuzu on a roll of UDF gold with a shock of AK-47s to inaugurate our university.
We of the teaching staff were inappropriately robed for the heat of a political rally (for my mzungu skin there was no blending in).
Cockroaches of the Academy we scuttle in a scorched tunnel dry bone and bean in a rattle echoing party chants. Men kaleidoscope jump miraculous springs in dust glittering drum every cell of themselves. Ululating women tongues glistening like snails beat our ground to the grandstand raising vanilla of sweet potato and maize. Praise of voices proclaim Bakili! His face paternal yellow on chests Bakili! Undulating on chitenji hips Bakili! g-force judders me in a malarial invasion. The mzungu’s quinine queasy Bakili!
On the back of a flat bed lorry climbing out of a vast pothole near Kafukule a man dressed in twelve hours of road dirt and a three piece suit asked "Ah Madam! It is a real place with real books and teachers?"
"I'm not sure. I am really not sure."
-------------------- Matolas - Bush taxi mzungu - White person chitenji - Cloth (worn like a sarong)
Nina Davies is an anthropologist with a research interest in the relationship between gender identity and material culture. She lives in Wakefield and is a member of the city's Black Horse Poets. Her blog is Precious Objects.