Madonna had a really bad trip to Malawi

The Material Girl made a trip to Malawi over the past week. Suffice it to say it did not go well.

Among the slights the one-name-only star endured:

  • Though she was given VIP status in the airport upon arrival, on her way out of the country her special status was revoked, and Madonna was forced to wait in lines and go through security before boarding her private jet.
  • A handwritten note she sent to President Joyce Banda was widely mocked, both for its informality ("Dear Joyce," it started off, before congratulating Banda on her "new position" -- "as if the barrier-breaking politician has earned a promotion at an insurance company," the New York Daily News scoffed) and its misspellings ("What an honor and what a huge responsability!")
  • Her request to meet with Banda was ignored, and she was slammed by the president while still in country for reneging on a pledge to build an academy for girls and renovating existing classroom blocks instead -- without government consent. (A widely circulating quote in which Banda accuses Madonna of making "poor people dance for her" is also a pretty brutal knock on the star, though the original source of the quote, the British tabloid the Sun, no longer seems to be using the quote in its entirety.)

Madonna has had a complicated relationship with Malawi since controversy erupted over her adoption of two Malawi children, David Banda and Mercy James, both eight. The charitable organization she founded afterward, Raising Malawi, collapsed amid accusations of mismanagement; one of the heads sent rolling belonged to Banda's younger sister Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo, and a spokesman suggested to the Telegraph yesterday that Madonna was being subjected to the indignities of airport security as the result of a "grudge."

Madonna herself has yet to issue a statement on the controversy -- after making it through security, you could say she left Malawi faster than a ray of light. But she did speak briefly to cameras at an orphanage in Lilongwe, where she said her focus remained on Malawi's children -- a line that moved at least one prominent observer of the spat to join Team Madonna.



Margaret Thatcher's legacy -- in political cartoons

Margaret Thatcher's death on Monday prompted a great deal of reflection on the Iron Lady's many legacies. But one in particular has been less explored: the former British prime minister's recurring appearance in political cartoons.

"She was a great subject for people who really hated her or hated her for what she stood for, which was many of the cartoonists," Anita O'Brien, the curator of the London Cartoon Museum, told Foreign Policy. "She was very distinctive. She had a particular way of speaking, which some [cartoonists] used to their advantage.... She was somebody that somehow couldn't be ignored." 

For that very reason, O'Brien's museum devoted an exhibition to the satirical sketches featuring Thatcher called Maggie! Maggie! Maggie! The exhibit opened in 2009 -- two decades after the divisive British leader had left power. "Because she was such a strong figure and because she continued to try to exert an influence over many of the succeeding prime ministers, both Tory and Labour, she continued to feature in cartoons long after she had ceased to be prime minister," O'Brien explained. "Much much more than probably any figure."

To get a sense of how Thatcher was depicted in political cartoons, check out the image below by American cartoonist Bill DeOre, which appeared after Thatcher dispatched the British Navy to the Falkland Islands in 1982:

DEORE © 1982 Bill DeOre. Courtesy of the artist and Universal Uclick. All rights reserved.

And another by DeOre:

DEORE © 1982 Bill DeOre. Courtesy of the artist and Universal Uclick. All rights reserved.

The cartoon below was published in the Daily Mirror the day after Thatcher's longest-serving cabinet minister, Geoffrey Howe, delivered a scathing resignation speech, voicing his discontent over her refusal to better integrate the United Kingdom with European economies:

This photograph shows a sketch at the Cartoon Museum drawn by Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell in 2000, after former British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared that it was time to "move British politics beyond the time of Margaret Thatcher."

Photograph by CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

"One of the things that came across when we did the exhibition was that she really divided the country," O'Brien told FP, and this doesn't look to be changing any time soon. "Even the whole issue of her funeral is dividing people. I'm sure there will be more cartoons between now and next week and probably after the funeral."

For Maggie's part, "she didn't care about cartoons at all," O'Brien notes. "We know this because one of our trustees was one of her ministers. Whereas some other politicians and previous prime ministers may have been quite hurt or offended by the cartoons, she just completely ignored them so they had no impact on her. I don't imagine she had that much interest in the visual arts."

Today, 30 July 1987 © Martin Rowson