As I walked up the dirt road from the Shiyala School to visit Maxwell’s home, this tall elegant man was walking down to meet me. Maxwell Mwanza was one of the driving forces that persuaded Mothers of Africa to rebuild the school. When it came to actually building it he labored daily, mixing concrete and mortar; unloading trucks and painting; quietly turning his hand to any job needing to be done. Maxwell is primarily a farmer, with a small area of land on which he grows maze, the staple crop of this part of Zambia. Over the six years I had been visiting Shiyala he has become a friend.
A few years ago, in gratitude for their patience with me endlessly pointing my camera at them, with artist Sue Hunt, I ran a portrait session for families in the village. I had taken a ‘selfie’ printer so I could give them copies of the photographs straight away. Maxwell’s wife Ruth had come with three of their daughters and three grandchildren. (As I write they have eight children and 18 grandchildren in total.)
My visit today is to put names to the photographs. Ruth and Maxwell invite me into their humble house. A small sitting room is crammed with a 3-piece suite, a small table and storage unit. The house also has three small bedrooms but no kitchen and no toilet. A thin cable passes through the roof to a small solar panel, providing power to a radio and mobile phone charger. On my last visit, one room had been filled with sacks of seed and fertilizer, bought with the income earned from working on the school build.
Maxwell produces an envelope containing the photos from the portrait session and other prints I had given him over the years. Three of their daughters join us and Priscilla lists the families’ names as we look through the prints. Then they gather under the shade of a tree for another family photograph.
Paul Crompton - 30th May 2018