Kanchan Motichand Malde, a beacon of resilience and warmth, departed peacefully on January 16 surrounded by her family.
Kanchan was the daughter of Nathoo Ladhu and Muriben Shah. Born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1939, she lived a life rich with adventure, love, and entrepreneurial spirit. Together with her late husband Moti, Kanchan co-founded The Malde Camera Company in Arusha, Tanzania, turning it into a respected name in the film industry, working with giants such as Universal Studios and Paramount Pictures. Kanchan and Moti worked with and befriended icons such as John Wayne and Howard Hawks, as well as Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, who at the time was chairman of the World Wildlife Fund.
The nationalization of the Malde Camera Company in 1971 was a terrible blow, but Kanchan and Moti carried their lives on with dignity and grace in Spain and Britain. They were devoted to keeping strong ties with Tanzania, and they founded the Friends of Arusha charity and headed it for many years. The international community of the Friends of Arusha still thrives today.
Kanchan held the unique distinction of being the world’s longest-living survivor of open heart surgery. This was performed in Los Angeles at The Good Samaritan Hospital on May 5, 1965. During her recovery, Kanchan visited with film and entertainment industry legends such as Elvis Presley and Julie Andrews.
Kanchan loved sharing her Indian cooking with others, and she taught people both in formal classes and in her home. She collected textiles and embroidery from Gujarat and Rajasthan, India, and she taught embroidery classes in India, Britain, and the United States. Her collection has been shown in various museums including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Alongside Moti, she collected hundreds of Makonde ebony sculptures. These have been shown in museums in Europe.
After more than thirty years in the U.K., Kanchan and Moti moved to Sewanee, Tennessee to be near their beloved grandsons. The Sewanee community welcomed them with open arms, and Kanchan continued to make new friends – and cook wonderful meals with them – right up to the end of her life.
Kanchan’s legacy is carried on by her loving family: sons Bharat, Pradip, and Mayur; daughters-in-law Angelika, Rachel, and Stacey; grandsons Luca and Kiran; and her cherished cat, Ming. She leaves behind an international community of family and friends who admired her for her resilience and her warmth and for the joy she found in sharing her culture and love. She will be missed.
In lieu of flowers, friends and family are invited to make a donation in Kanchan’s honor to the charity of their choice, or to Animal Harbor in Winchester, Tennessee.
If flowers are preferred, a florist option is Taylor’s Mercantile in Sewanee, Tennessee.