#7D4H - Rodney Likaku & Lorraine Matenda

It is with a very heavy heart that we report Lorraine Matenda's passing. Lorraine's cousin, Rodney Likaku, wrote a tribute to Lorraine, found below. Our global heart goes out to the Matenda family. Thank you to everyone who participated in the "One Heart For Lorraine" campaign. The outpouring of love was profound. Thank you. 

“I am fine, I will be okay. . . I am God’s Child” - Lorraine’s Final Words

Remembering Lorraine: 

On Wednesday, 28th January 2015, we buried Lorraine Matenda. That morning the sky was blue, but we are not.

A few days ago, I lost my cousin. We lost a friend, a student, a sister and a niece. We all lost something in her. But what is important is what we remember about Lorraine. We remember her for her smile, she always smiled. Like the picture that was placed above her coffin, neatly; her smile carried along with it an army so powerful, so strong, and so rejuvenating her poor heart could not contain it. Lo carried within her a force of nature. Her heart whose job was to pump blood around her body failed to comprehend how to contain the spirit of such young power and might that the little girl personified. And so it caved under the pressure of carrying along the life of one who would one day change young leadership in Malawi while fighting for her life.

She has closed her eyes forever, and forever now feels like terribly long time. Such grace, my darling, and you will never know it.

Everyone is eternally grateful to the doctors who did everything they could to save her life. Though they will say her heart gave up and use long words that will bring us back to the red- like the color of flowers that surround her now; the green- like the natural green and gold that the Kamuzu Academy students wore to escort her from this life, to the next; to remind her that there is after forever, is another forever where we will meet her when we too are brown- like the dust to which, now, she has returned.

But we are not blue! We may be sad, but we are definitely not blue because when they say that her heart gave up; we will say that it gave in. We will say that it gave in to elucidate the potential and spirit of youth leadership that I see everyday working with young Malawian leaders at Art and Global Health Center Africa (AGHCA) when she kept her pulse going in order to be the dreamer who single-handedly mobilized an army of young advocates to fight the metaphor of disease and dis-ease of our nation from the confines of a hospital bed. We will say that it gave in to allow hundreds of young Malawians from different walks of life to fight their differences, in order that they can come together and wrestle a disease. She illustrated the command that the new generation of young Malawian men and women now have when they take ownership of problems that plague their nation and work together to provide solutions for them. She gave children in what has been known to be third world, poverty stricken nation; one color, one voice and thereby the chance to call it home, because we all have the same problems. So it is not accurate to say that her heart gave up, but more rightly to know that it gave in for her to become the person that she was always born to be.

Simply put, Lorraine embodied in her little heart the reason why art and education advocate, Marian Brown, of Arts Connect International (ACI) all the way in downtown Boston, USA responded to Isabel Kumwembe’s (Global Health Corps) and my call to guest blog hundreds of photos of people who wore blue in solidarity with her in order to raise awareness of heart disease. This shows the rippling effect of the “7 Dresses for Health” performance piece which deconstructs the debris, labels and ideas that have been imprinted in our cultural imaginations regarding the individuality of illness. Using different colors, Brown, has illuminated the presence of discomfort in our societies by creating a new system of signs under which we can recognize and treat individual disease as national dis-ease; bringing people together. To trace its impact one only needs to go through the hundreds of photos of people in blue from around the world that were sent in solidarity with LO.

Therefore Lorraine and Day 9 of “7 Dresses 4 Health” have redefined the color blue for us. We do not think that she passed away; we would like to believe that that she jumped of the cliff of life and glided into the sea of blue shirts that represent the many campaigns such as that with Chikondi Mandala and “Friends of Lorraine”, we will see you smiling behind the blue that represents the generosity and support she received from Yuk-yen Auyeung and the College of Medicine Sport Complex; The blue team that stood for you under “One heart for Lo”, and those who still wear blue- like that of Mr. Cooke, Headmaster of Kamuzu Academy’s shirt at the funeral and Rachael Watson of Exploits University. Lorraine has shown the power of Malawian youth working together. That is why, all of us, together may be sad as a family; but we are not blue: because Lorraine is “fine, she is okay . . . she is a child of God”.

About 7 Dresses 4 Health (7D4H): 7D4H is a year-long arts and health education campaign lead by visual artist, Marian Brown, in conjunction with Arts Connect International. The objective of the campaign is to promote inclusive community practices through adDRESSing health artistically and collaboratively. To learn more about the genesis of the project, read Marian’s New Year Blog.

About the author: Rodney Jonathan Likaku is a young writer, artist and academic. He is interested in the intersection of the academia and arts to understand development beyond the Western-African intellectual divide. He is the program officer of a creative leadership program called “Students with Dreams” at Art and Global Health Center Africa and part-time he is associate lecturer in English Literature at Chancellor College, University of Malawi. Rodney’s hopes that his interaction with Arts Connect International will help in advancing a new way of theorizing African problems in art and the academy to directly impact development and creative youth leadership.