In a spate of interviews, including one airing tonight on the BBC, Madonna tells a very different story about the life of the Malawian baby she is now caring for and hopes to adopt than the one reported thus far in the press.
An element that has always felt out of place about the adoption narrative is why — in a blighted African nation teeming with a million orphans — would Madonna in her infinite mercy and majesty choose to adopt a child, David Banda, who still has a living father and grandmother? This unsettling fact has doubtless fueled some of the resentment and mistrust swirling around the case, and has put both the diva and the boy's father on the defensive about the "arrangement."
A widely reported, heart-rending article that ran in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago, told the story of the boy's father, Yohane Banda, 32, an uneducated tomato and onion subsistence farmer, who lost his wife Marita, 28, six days after David was born. The couple's first son, Garnet, had died of malaria at two-and-a-half years old; and the second, Babel, died of an "undetermined illness" at 18 months.
Yohane had taken David back to his village of Lipunga, desperate in his concern for the welfare of his new son: he could not afford to buy milk and what if David got sick like the others? Neither his nor his dead wife's family could take in David — the traditional family support system has been shredded by AIDS, other disease, drought, and intense poverty.
Yohane's mother and the village chief agreed the best option for David was the Home of Hope orphanage 25 miles away, where he would be well fed, looked after by an in-house foster mother, and have access to medical care. Yohane took David to the orphanage by bicycle on the day the boy was five weeks old. "It was a very sad day for us," said Asianti. "Our only consolation was the child had a better chance of staying alive."
Yohane, as quoted by the Guardian, said he visited the boy twice a week, pedaling the 50-mile round trip on a borrowed bike. "We were very close to my child," said Yohane. "Whenever I left the orphanage, David would cry."