Business came to a standstill at Sunbird Capital in Malawiâ€™s capital, Lilongwe, as Jamaican icon Rita Marley fondly called â€˜Nanaâ€˜, checked in for the â€œLiving Legendsâ€ honours on Saturday afternoon.
Onlookers said people at the hotel left their work stations and trooped to the lobby to catch a glimpse of the 65-year-old widow of reggae legend Bob Marley, who visited the country for the first time.
According to organisers, Nana Rita was in Malawi to receive an African Diaspora Award at the seventh African International Media Summit (Aims) hosted by African Communications Agency (ACA) at Bingu International Conference Centre in the Capital.
Dubbed Living Legends Banquet, the gala was expected to usher the Jamaican icon and President Joyce Banda into a league of legendary winners such US-born boxer Muhammad Ali, Brazilian soccer star Pele, South Africa former president Nelson Mandela and his compatriot Desmond Tutu, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Nigerian author Wole Soyinka.
According to ACA vice chairperson, Ambassador Dr Erieka Bennet, the two-day gatheringâ€”themed â€˜I am African, I am the African Unionâ€™â€”envisioned repositioning the image of the continent by, among other things, focussing on the role of the social media to boost opportunities for the private sector.
However, the limelight was on Rita who made the trip alongside Dr Julius Garvey, the son of black empowerment philosopher Marcus Garvey.
As expected, the Rastafarian community in the country was excited at the duoâ€™s arrival. In an interview, Rastafari for Unity president, Ras Judah, said the country should count itself lucky to have Rita set her foot on its soil.
â€œRastafarians are overwhelmed by the news. Everyone who meets Sister Rita in person gets inspired both spiritually and morally. We canâ€™t wait to see Sister Rita and we know that our presence would make her feel at home and we pray that we have an opportunity to chat with her even if it means for five minutes,â€ said Judah.
He said although caught unawares, the Rastafari community would mobilise a sizeable representation for an audience with the Africa Unite hitmakerâ€™s spouse.
According to Alvin Singh of the ACA, an Ethiopian Airways plane carrying Rita arrived at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) at exactly 2.30pm on Saturday.
Her award ceremony brings to an end the summit which brought together media practitionersâ€”CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, Reuters, Associated Press (AP) and localsâ€”to explore positive portrayal of the continent which is often associated with wars.
She is expected to fly to Ghana this Monday.