In the Crossroads Hotelâ€™s foyerâ€”host to static arts exhibitions during the Malawi Cultural Arts Festival (Macfest) in Malawiâ€™s capital Lilongwe recentlyâ€” a striking piece of art screams a hearty welcome to the audience lingering about.
The large painting greets its admirers with an otherwise unusual pick of subjects in the country. On its descent from the right corner of the painting, President Joyce Bandaâ€™s torsoâ€”surrounded by plump breasts raining milkâ€”flies into your face.
Darting down from the clouds above, her face brilliant and her contentment showing in how she stretches her arms, she holds in her left hand a laundry line with nappies hanging on it.
Welcome to the world of Eva Chikabadwaâ€™s painting, Jesus is Coming Soon And it Will Rain Lots of Milk; No more Rugs for Nappies.â€
The tale behind the K100 000 oil painting looks into the sphere the countryâ€™s underprivileged live in: Banda comes in as a ray of hope to those in despair.
From the other side of the art piece, a cloud spreads down. With it is the murkiness the world has bestowed upon the countryâ€™s underprivileged:
A weighing scale with a tin of milk on its one hand and a bus on the other. The bus, courtesy of tax relief, weighs lesser to the wealthier buyerâ€™s pocket than is a tin of milk supplement to an impoverished mother.
It ends up that while baby MRA sits on a bagful of tax money, enjoying a tin of milk, an ordinary baby sits just nearby, crying her eyes out from starvation.Â
The poor babyâ€™s mother can only sit and watch as the baby suffers due to restraints, including a stopping the HIV-positive from breastfeeding or high prices ofÂ supplements.
Â All babies have is their thumbs to lick. But at the base of the painting is a baby pastorâ€”Bible in handâ€”ministering to a toddler congregation.
In Chikabadwaâ€™s world, the pastorâ€™s message is of hope and belief in a time of despair: â€œyou donâ€™t have to worry; there will be no more rugs for nappies.â€
The pastor seems to draw his strength from the taps of milk above.
Explained the painter: â€œMy plea is to her, President Mrs Joyce Banda, to do more for the disadvantaged,â€ says Chikabadwa. If government can lift taxes on bus imports, what about milk, the basic nutrition babies need for survival?
â€œItâ€™s a touching issue to me as a mother; I have met so many mothers fending for their kids.Â Â
â€œAs an artist, it settles in my mind that we need to contribute on policies that can help bail out the underprivileged from the financial mire.â€