While his day-to-day tasks entail that due process is followed when people leave or enter the country, Immigration officer Charles Chisi has an imaginative pastime that should be the envy of most local writers.
Chisi has written and self-published a novel titled The Promise.
The immigration officer-cum-writer, who is stationed at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe, is a former journalist with the now-defunct The Chronicle newspaper.
He says the urge to write was born as a secondary school student.
“I started writing when I was at Thyolo Secondary School in the late 90s when I used to write for the school under the Writers Club. It was my active writing that made me realise that I had the potential to become a writer of note if I worked hard at it.
“After my secondary school education, I studied journalism and worked for The Chronicle newspaper for three years until the time the paper went under in 2007,” he says.
He adds that after leaving mainstream media, he still had a burning desire to write which culminated into The Promise.
“That was when I thought of writing a fiction novel after being inspired by the works of renowned writers such as Willie Zingani, Whyghtone Kamthunzi and Dede Kamkondo whose literary works I used to enjoy reading during my primary school days,” he says.
Chisi, 38, was born and raised in Thyolo and The Promise is laden with tales of the countryside.
The Promise is centred on a promise which a queen and a prince make to each other.
“In the novel, there were two major developments that happened to them requiring the keeping of that promise and that is what makes the novel interesting to read as it keeps the reader wondering what happened at the end,” he explains.
Chisi says it took him two years to write the novel, but he faced challenges in sourcing funds to publish it.
“There was no support I received from anyone, maybe because I had not yet made a name in the literary world and it was therefore difficult for them to invest in me. As a writer, I would love if the Malawi Writers Union had a fund to support up-and-coming writers to publish their work if they satisfy certain criteria. The other problem is marketing of literary work which has been worsened by a dwindling reading culture in the country.
“These days people find it harder to read than to watch something and this is affecting writing as a field. Even if the books are placed in the bookshops, it is only after the books have been bought that the writer will enjoy their sweat. This is one area government, as a beneficiary of most literary works, is supposed to address to encourage writers to write more,” he says.
But Chisi is undeterred and is currently working on his second book, this time around a non-fiction account of Malawians to remember.
“This time I am attempting a non-fiction book titled Malawians to Remember where I will write about Malawians, dead and living, who have made a significant contribution to the country’s socio-economic development so as to enable Malawians to know them better,” he says. n