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Getting to Know the Enemy

African Voices: Maria Siampendi

Maria Siampendi


Macha, Zambia

Photographed on January 13, 2006

Interrupting her morning routine of tending to her family's cattle, maize, groundnuts and cowpeas, Maria Siampendi sits on a wooden stool in her cooking hut and talks with a visitor. A massive thatched roof protects the hut's interior from the rain, while space between the roof's bottom edge and the hut's brick walls allows for ventilation. Siampendi wears a red-orange shirt and a skirt printed in geometric patterns of yellow, green, red, orange and royal blue. She sits next to a couple of fire-blackened bricks and a pile of ash. Her dog, a brown and black short-hair with a splotch of white on his face, curls on the ground beside her. A bundle of firewood stands in the corner of the brick hut.

“Malaria has been a big problem here. From when I was young until now, I've experienced some type of malaria. In the past, it was not as easy for people to die. Nowadays, it's more deadly. I know many children have died of malaria. It really happens often. If it's not treated properly, the disease can claim a life.

Because malaria can attack the brain, [the sick] talk in an unfamiliar language. Some people say, "It's not malaria. It's witchcraft on my son or daughter." So they take them to a witch doctor for traditional medicine. And they do not take the child to the hospital. That's when many can die. Those who know take their child to the hospital.”

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