Zomba Prison Project

In the summer of 2013, Grammy-winning producer, Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, TV on the Radio) and his wife, Italian photographer and filmmaker, Marilena Delli, traveled to the border of Malawi and Mozambique specifically to document and record the music of prisoners at the maximum security prison in Zomba. Zomba prison is a dilapidated brick structure that resembles a factory from a Dickens novel and was built in the 19th century. Designed to hold 340 people, today it houses over two thousand. Plus, many of the guards also live on the grounds, just outside the walls.

The head of prisons allowed Brennan and Delli access for the project in exchange for Brennan’s offering a series of classes on violence prevention to inmates and guards. They were then embedded within the compound and sworn to secrecy, at one point nearly being detained for taking photos in a forbidden area of the prison (i.e., see the shot included on the actual physical CD). At another moment, they were caught in the middle of a brawl and witnessed a prisoner being beaten after trying to escape through the main door.

Through the Zomba Prison project, three of the women involved have gained release from their sentences. And three other cases are now actively under review due to the funds that have been raised. The hope is that these efforts will be ongoing and more prisoners will be advocated for as a result of awareness and support brought about through “I Have No Everything Here” album.

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