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Nearly a third of Malawi's children do not attend primary school, and more than one in ten live with HIV/AIDS. We work in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu to help families provide a safe, happy childhood for their children, and to provide care for those who cannot grow up with their parents. … more about our charity work in Malawi

Malawi: Initiation ceremonies

Malawi: Initiation ceremonies

Peter Law ruminates on the time he spent filming on location for ‘Our Africa’. Here, he tells us how he stumbled upon an initiation ceremony in a local community...

Malawi: Initiation ceremonies

"Some of the best films we’ve returned with happened by chance. We were driving back to the SOS Children’s Village, where we staying, from a community a few miles out when we came across an initiation ceremony. The ceremony itself – where boys and girls are ‘initiated’ when they reach a certain age – hadn’t quite started. But in the lead-up to the event, as tradition dictates, young men from the community dressed in Malawi Our Africa Tribal Traditions imageferocious lion outfits and rattled their way around the hills, coming up close to our car and peering in.

Our professional cameraman (an ex BBC man) never missed an opportunity. Once, elsewhere, when we were crossing a bridge across a gorge he jumped out, long lens at the ready, to snap a canoeist in the chasm below – despite warning signs that vehicles must not stop, and despite security men running towards us.

So here, at the initiation ceremony, there was no argument – we would film it and our young filmmaker, a teenage girl from the SOS Village, would be our frontline camera person. What an honour. However, she wasn’t so keen to get out of the car, as you can imagine. Eventually, with the professional within reach, she gave it a go.

When you get back from a trip, exhausted, you’ve become accustomed to the rigours of Africa and almost nonchalant about some of the sights and sounds you’ve captured on video. It takes a colleague, seeing the film for the first time, to bring home the significance of some of the footage. Like the young man who missed school sometime because he couldn’t afford soap to wash before he went. So he was working in his spare time to buy soap.

Then there’s the young lady in Malawi who talks passionately about the value of education to young women – so they can escape from just being an appendage to men.

You can’t help thinking that certain less privileged young people in the western world might learn from the passion, desire and discipline among young people in Africa as they try to get an education. Then there’s the teenager who knows about the US music charts, who has seen a different world through the internet, who wants to marry a European – and maybe ‘escape’ from her less privileged environment.

At times, ‘Our Africa’ is a good measure of what we take for granted."

Want to learn more about Our Africa

Our Africa is a truly unique project, seeking to bring to life the reality of growing up in Africa. By handing out camcorders to youngsters across Africans and sending them out into their communities, we were able to the essence of childhood on the world's most complex continent. We learnt a lot and we think you will too!

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