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Dickson, an African village

There are forty four huts in the village of Dickson, and some two hundred and fifty inhabitants. The village is just seventy five kilometres along a dirt road from Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, but none of the villagers have been to the city for over thirty years.

Photographer Jan Banning and journalist Dick Wittenberg selected Dickson as a microcosm of sub-Saharan Africa. In May and again in November 2005, they spent several weeks in the village, interviewing its people and photographing them in their homes. The villagers live in a state of chronic poverty, exacerbated by Malawi's worst harvest in a decade, which has left 4.7 million people, 40% of the population, at risk of hunger. The United Nations launched an $88 million famine appeal for the country, but announced in September 2005 that not a single cent had been pledged by rich nations.

The people of Dickson are now a little better off. There is fertiliser for the planting season, and food for the time being. The publication of their story in the Dutch magazine 'M' attracted an extraordinary response. The simplicity of the portraits of people in their homes connected with the readers - hundreds wrote to express their feelings, and an appeal was launched to raise money for the village. Each household was also presented with two prints - a photograph of themselves, and this group portrait.
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