Thursday 17 December 2015

The village tailor with a smile in his eyes

Sitting on his porch getting drunk, the village tailor has a question written in his smile: What is that mzungu doing out in the pouring rain?
Bea Beans, 2009
Bea Beans is the Village tailor and proud owner of a Singer sewing machine. It was given to him while he was attending a one year course in sewing and tailoring at the Magomero Centre in Blantyre. Unfortunately he wasn’t given anything else, except a tape measure in the way of materials or support, which made it very hard for him to get started up in business. As a result of contracting polio at the age of 7, Bea is lame and has never been able to attend school. After leaving Blantyre, he returned to his home in the small village of Khomora, tucked away in the hills above Ruarwe. Unable to find any business there, he moved down to Ruarwe in 2003 and rented four rooms in the house at the heart of the village, where he now lives. 
As well as doing alterations and repairs, Bea makes clothes for women, though sometimes he gets big orders to makes suits for festivals and weddings. Most of his business comes from Ruarwe and the surrounding villages. Being unable to travel to get material, thread and buttons, he has to send someone all the way to Lilongwe, where the shops sell cheap goods imported from China.
Bea's father is head man at Khomora, and an excellent farmer, growing cassava as a cash crop. Of his three brothers and two sisters, Bea was the only one to get polio. When he showed the first signs of sickness, he was taken to hospital in Blantyre, returning home to Khomora six months later, permanently paralysed from the hips down.
Because he was unable to travel to find a wife from outside the village, as is the custom to prevent inbreeding, Bea had his eye on a certain local girl, the beautiful Stella. They became boy and girlfriend, and one day Bea summoned up the courage to ask for her hand in marriage, and she accepted, because she had fallen in love with him. He had told her that if her parents didn’t agree to the marriage, he would leave her to find another husband, but fortunately they gave their consent. All this happened years before my time at Ruarwe, but that was one wedding I’m sorry I missed. Like many African women, Stella is an excellent farmer, and during the time when Bea was struggling to get his business started, she was able to support him.
In 2003 their first child, a girl was born at home, and being premature died three months later. After a year Stella was pregnant again and gave birth to a son called Joshua, followed by a daughter called Wisegirl. As well as two children and a beautiful wife, Bea has his smiling eyes.
He says:” God has been good to me by giving me two children that can walk, and I know that in the future my children will change my life. Business is going well, but my plans are hindered by shortage of money to expand my business and build my own house, so there is somewhere for my children to live when I’m gone. I am happy here in Ruarwe, because I have many friends and people are good to me.”

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