His name is mostly associated with oppression and cruelty during the 31 years of his reign, but in the new play, The Walking Ngwazi, theatre lovers got to appreciate the other side of the country’s founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
Staged for the first time at HS Winehouse in Blantyre on a chilly Friday evening, Young Directors Council (YDC) actors staged the impressive play to a not-so-impressive audience.
“Father, I will not let your people continue to suffer under the oppressive rule of the white man. I will fight and free them on your behalf,” said Jack Msumba, playing the role of Kamuzu Banda.
Set in the village of Mphonongo in Kasungu, the play covers the time Kamuzu’s father, chief Mphonongo, started a rebellion against the white man only to be killed by fellow blacks.
In the aftermath of his death, the young Kamuzu takes up his father’s ambition and walks on foot to Zimbabwe where his uncle Hannock Sokera Phiri used to stay.
Later, he goes to South Africa before he connects to Europe where he gets education. He then returns to Malawi and leads a revolt against the British rule.
The play incorporates scenes of the past and present and embeds messages of courage, leadership and political progress.
Fumbani Phiri, who authored the play, said it has been his ambition to tell the other side of Kamuzu’s life.
“He came from a chieftaincy lineage and his leadership probably came from there,” said Phiri.
He added that the play was meant to inspire Malawians to look for leadership qualities in those aspiring for elective positions during the 2019 elections.
“We follow current affairs, but we also know that we can never progress without looking at our history,” he said.
Msumba, who co-wrote the script, said the play helped him to learn more things he did not know about Kamuzu.
“I learnt that Kamuzu was courageous, strong and had inborn characters of a leader,” said Msumba.
The play had a cast of 10 members namely Phiri, Msumba, Kelvin Carter, Isaac Chanza, Florence Magombo, Mwai Kadzamira, Imran Shabaan, Mervin Mpira, Prince Kazembe and Debra Butao.
The actors demonstrated the extent of sacrifices artists make to ensure quality production. They braved the cold weather to perform in costumes that barely covered their bodies.
YDC is a composition of theatre directors from, among others, Solomonic Peacocks, Young Travellers Theatre and Bantu Arts Theatre. Initially, they were visiting secondary schools to teach learners stage drama. The Walking Kamuzu is their first collaborative stage production.