Johan Hugo of the musical group The Very Best, which has Malawian artist Esau Mwamwaya, has cast the net wider, promoting the country’s artist Lazarus Chigwandali in London.
Lazarus is in London where his documentary which speaks volumes of his life was expected to be premiered Wednesday.
The premiere of the documentary, which last weekend won the Best Documentary Award at HollyShorts Film Festival in United States of America Wednesday, follows the successful launch of his album Stomp on the Devil last Friday.
Johan has been on the move, promoting Lazarus in London and the world.
“Thank you for being a supporter of The Very Best and many of my other projects over the years. If you are a fan of anything I’ve done in last few years like Baaba Maal — The Traveller or Mumford & Sons — Johannesburg — there’s a lot more of these kinds of project coming in the next year. But we also have Lazarus from Malawi. He is an exciting artist,”writes Johan in one of the promotion materials.
Johan said, over the last year, they have been busy with Lazarus.
“Many of you already know Lazarus but for those who don’t know, he is in London and will be performing here so take your time to watch him and hear his story,” he said.
Johan, who is set to perform at this year’s Lake of Stars Festival to take place at Kachere Kastle in Nkhata Bay next month alongside Lazarus, said Lazarus, as a person living with albinism, had defied all odds to use his musical talent to fight for persons with albinism.
“Lazarus is a street musician from Malawi. He has albinism, which in Malawi can get you mutilated or killed, because there is a belief in witchcraft and that albino body parts can be used to get you rich or win elections,” he said.
Johan said last year he came to Malawi and recorded an album with Lazarus, and that his Oscar -nominated filmmaker friends David Darg & Bryn Mooser came with him to make a documentary.
“Madonna ended up coming on board and executive produced the film with us. The film premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in New York in April. Lazarus ended up winning a Disruptive Innovator Award for his work as an albinism activist and recorded a bunch of songs with Bon Iver and The National, then went on stage with them to perform one of them at their Big Red Machine show at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn,” he said.
Johan also said renowned actor, Leonardo Dicaprio, came for dinner with Lazarus to hear his story.
“He had never heard about the genocide of people with albinism in Malawi before. Lazarus obviously played an impromptu show for him. During our weeks in New York, United States of America, we had meetings with the United Nations Officials, Human Rights Watch etc where Lazarus drummed up real support for his fight for people with albinism,” he said.
Johan said two of Lazarus children also have albinism and that, during his time in New York, they set up a Kickstarter campaign and managed to raise over £20, 000 to buy Lazarus and his family a house that is safe for all of them, where no-one can try to abduct or kill them. They’re finally going to be moving into it in the next month,” he said.