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Blantyre is an amazing city full of life. It has so many creative people with so many different talents. Some of them are outlined in this article.


I park the car by the communal water point and pick my way carefully through the narrow alleyways of Tafika Pano, a crowded section on the upper slopes of Blantyre’s bursting, informal Ndirande Township. An explosion of small dwellings individually tailored to the pockets of the city’s poor portrays man’s determination to provide shelter for himself even in difficult circumstances. Some see a slum; I see a paean to tenacity and vibrant humanity.




Reuben's way to the house and right outside his house


There is little colour in Reuben Ndembu’s daily life. He lives and works in a single, windowless, unfurnished room - the only colours the faded blue of the door hanging by a single hinge and walls decorated with the primeval rock-art of infancy and children’s lessons - an off-white whiteboard of necessity.


The room looks out across an organic chaos of unplanned buildings. The ubiquitous eucalyptus trees, thriving in this hostile environment, mark the edge of a small ravine - a welcome gap - a lung - in this urban jumble.


A pit by the door gives no hint of its transformational properties. Now it is just a dangerous trap for the unwary. In such places, it is the pedestrian who must take care.

His clothes are drab. The room is dull. But Reuben’s head is alive with colorful pictures which his practised hands will bring to life.


Reuben was raised in rural Machinga. His artistic talents discovered early, he was soon in demand by his teachers to draw complicated illustrations on the blackboards.


Entirely self-taught, he came to Blantyre in 1981 to make a modest living - an existence - as an artist. He prefers to paint but the cost of materials is prohibitive. He now produces pottery and painted softwood figures.


In recent years he has produced works on commission for Take Care. Under Take Care’s guidance he has developed many interesting models. His knowledge of Malawi’s birds, plants and animals is extensive. He is able to reproduce them or customers’ designs faithfully in clay and paint them to a high degree of reality.


Reuben finds his clay in the nearby Nyambadwe stream. Under his skilled and loving hands this unprepossessing material is shaped, without the assistance of mechanical devices and using only the simplest of tools, into a diverse array of attractive products.



Reuben pose with some of the products ready to go onto the fire.


Now the purpose of the pit is revealed. No expensive oven for Reuben. A pile of firewood, a simple metal grid to support the work and more firewood heaped around are all that he needs to fire his pottery.
























Reuben set up the fire.



The fire roars. The fire dies. The clay cools. The paints come out.  Brilliant colours, from brain to eye, burst afresh into Reuben’s life.





























The clay pots are ready for the final decoration





























Reuben in the final stages of the art.






























Some of the finished products


From Ndirande I took a drive to Chileka. Just before the airport there is a trading centre called 10 miles, this is where I saw a very strange image right in front of my car. When I looked closely I saw that it was a man cycling though he seemed a bit higher than the normal height the usual bicycles are. When I got closer, I noticed this man was on a very high un usual bicycle.

I tried to take a pic from the car but could not get a clear picture. I passed him and decided to stop and have a word with the man.



View of the bicycle from a distance


“Yes bwana, muli bwino?, Taimani ticheze” ( Hie boss, how are you? Please may I have a word with you ?). The man politely stopped. I introduced myself and the first thing the man said is “am sure you will give me something for stopping me”. I immediately said YES I will, no problem.


Finally got the man talking. His name is Singano Linje and comes from Chikumbu Village in Chileka. He is a farmer but has always been so creative and innovative. Few years back he started looking at ways to repair and improve his bicycle with cheap and long lasting spare parts as they were too expensive to buy from the shops. This made him look to wood. He decided to use planks of wood and few metal bars to make his bike better. At first he had made it the same height as the normal bicycles but faced some problems and decided to make it higher and longer which resolved the problems.



The bicycle has a space for his entertainment unit, right above the handle bars. He has his radio with his memory card slot which is playing while he is cycling. The music is quite high though and can be heard from a distance. Anyway, he is cycling against the wind so he needs the volume.

When I met him, he was coming from Thyolo District. He had travelled to Thyolo two days before and that was his return trip which he had started off around 6am. It was around 2pm when I stopped him which meant he had been cycling for about 7 hours.


When I asked him of any future plans, Singano told me that he has been working on a project to develop a helicopter. His plans are all set, the designs are also ready. He knows how it will work and how he will operate it and the only thing left was to find a sponsor. What he needs is a motor cycle engine. That will do.  He obviously could not disclose more details but he is determined to get this project off the ground.

What an amazing and creative person Singano is. If you have a motor cycle that is not being used please let us assist this gentleman and see what he can do with it. I was so impressive and if I had one I would have given him to see how his next project would go. However, I would not go with him on the test ride on this plane.


Watch the little interview we had with him

We will continue giving you more as we explore this beautiful country.


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