When Sheila and I went with our community of Interplay artists to Tukumbo, Malawi, in 2007, I imagined I’d see great poverty, unhappiness, and perhaps even hostility to a group of primarily white people visiting their impoverished village. We went on this trip with one of our global leaders, Masankho Banda, who was born and raised in this village.

I was wrong from the start. The people were warm and friendly and greeted us with dance and song upon arrival. Despite being poor in material items, they were rich in living their lives fully.

I met this young man, in the picture, a few days after our arrival. He seemed to select me as his guest, showed me the market, took me to his school, and introduced me to his friends.

Telephone landlines were rare in this part of Malawi, but cell towers provided services that everyone in the community could use. Technology skipped a generation. Several community members shared flip phones with others, and he was intrigued by my iPhone.

I showed him how it takes pictures, makes recordings, and serves as a phone.

As a group, we learned much about the community and Malawi. We prepared meals, ate together, visited orphanages and schools, and sang and danced with women and men. We saw their hardships and joys. 

As we prepared to leave and boarded our vans, my young friend came over to show me the new camera he’d made during our stay. He lined me up, took the snapshot, and, I hope, had it fully developed in his mind. 

I snapped my own, reminding me of the gifts of imagination and simplicity.

© Richard Citrin 2023

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