Self Portrait 14; Recollection

3 Sep
Self-portrait 14 C

Self-portrait 14; Recollection

A nostalgic moment for me, the X-ray image came from a Zimbabwean man with Bantu haemo-siderosis. This is a condition in which a person ingests large quantities of iron. The excess dietary iron is deposited first in the skin giving the person a tanned colour. My patient complained that he had to stop drinking beer because his skin was getting too dark.

Bantu siderosis is caused by consuming large quantities of home-brewed beer made in ungalvanised steel barrels. The iron in the barrel oxidises and dissolves in the beer. The condition leads to liver cirrhosis, cancer of the liver, heart disease and diabetes. The condition was originally blamed entirely on beer brewed in rusty barrels, however genetics also plays a role in this disorder because it can also occur in non-beer drinkers, and of those that do, only some are affected. A genetic marker increases the risk of iron overload when excess iron is consumed.

Introduction of commercially brewed beer to rural areas in Zimbabwe in the 1960s dramatically reduced the incidence of the condition. It became illegal to brew beer at home.

However the law of unintended consequences came into play. In the villages people would brew beer as a communal event, often for the weekend, using maize meal, sorghum, and sometimes currants and raisins or marula fruit, and yeast. It was an important source of B group of Vitamins. The beer was consumed at home, and helped to bond families and the community. Β It played an important part in family ritual, healing ceremonies, and some would always be reserved for the spirits. Menfolk stayed close to home, money stayed in the group. After the beer was consumed any the highly nutritious sludge at the bottom of the barrel was given to the children to supplement their diet.

After introduction of commercial beer, the males would go out to the beer-halls, drink away from home. Money was lost to the community, there was a problem with public drunkenness, family dynamics were irretrievably altered, and an important source of nutrition for children in poor communities was lost.

One wonders whether the government would have done better to sell stainless steel or even plastic containers cheaply for the purpose than to ban home brewing, and one suspects commercial considerations had a hand in the decision.

In this self-portrait, along with the X-ray I have included an African sunset (Mana Pools on the Zambezi).

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8 Responses to “Self Portrait 14; Recollection”

  1. heatherlamont September 3, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

    This brings back a lot of memories and evokes strong feelings in me. Thank you. xx

  2. leecleland September 3, 2015 at 7:56 pm #

    A moral dilemma (? I’m a poor speller and the dictionary is too far tonight πŸ™‚ and often the banning of something is someone’s greed. I find the information you include about the medical backgrounds of your X-Rays fascinating and very interesting, thank you.

  3. annerose September 4, 2015 at 8:28 am #

    you have an excellent solution to the excess iron in the beer, and to your artwork, your gaze is so intense, nicely done

  4. burgessart September 5, 2015 at 6:18 pm #

    Another beautiful image Tony! The story behind it is so relevant to our modern world where people are making quick fix decisions that can have far reaching negative effects on others. Well done!

  5. (b)ananartista SBUFF September 18, 2015 at 7:39 am #

    nice creations, I’m following you

    • Xraypics September 21, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

      Thankyou for visiting and following, I have had a look at your site and love your sense of humour. Great stuff! I would follow you but cannot find the button on your page. Keep trying!

  6. elmediat September 27, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

    Fascinating post. πŸ™‚ The unintended consequences of laws and marketing/business grow in those implied spaces of social change and adaptation.

    Instead of large scale commercial beer production, they should have built on the small community practise to create micro-breweries, which would have kept more of the social benefits while generating more income in the local economy. Likely there are hidden consequences in this possibility that may impact negatively, but perhaps it would lessen intensity .

    • Xraypics September 27, 2015 at 7:50 pm #

      Fully agree, but that is a modern take on a situation that was not understood in the 1960s. Not only that, but there were the racist attitudes typical of Central Africa at the time, as well. For those of us with a more liberal and informed outlook it was excruciating.

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