Tattoos are almost everything to people with heartfelt emotional connections. And ‘Du Jr’, reads one on Doreen Chisiza’s left biceps.
To the first born of Du Chisiza Jnr, the inking is an indelible tribute to her father, the country’s most revered playwright, actor and director, who died on February 24 1999.
“When I left the country in 2001, my dad had just died. I struggled to accept he was gone. To some, he is dead and buried, but for me he will not be forgotten. This tattoo was part of that, me acknowledging what he wanted me to be,” says the firstborn who flew in last month from Wisconsin, US, in time for the 20th anniversary of Du’s death.
Doreen is leading her siblings in De Summer Blow tour bringing to mind their father’s stellar exploits.
“I had to,” she says. “I organised this, so I had to see it through.”
The restaging of the play could be good news for fans starved of Chisiza-sque theatricals since Du’s death. When his long-serving student Gertrude Kamkwatira attempted to push to forge a theatrical future, the dream was cut short when his family banned continued use of the name Wakhumbata Ensemble Theatre (WET). Kamkwatira who later christened her outfit Wanna Do in a pun of defiance.
Doreen rues being too young she wa unable to stop the disruptive intervention, marked with sporadic false starts and flops by his father’s half brother Khumbo Bazuka-Mhango.
When asked about the two-decade hiatus, Doreen gives a glimpse of the heartbreak haunting her as WET’s journey ground to a halt.
“I was 12 or 13, too young to have a say. In fact, one of my regrets was not standing up in defence of his name. His name didn’t have to go away. I wish I had done enough to preserve his name,” she said during dress rehearsals at the French-built Blantyre Cultural Centre a day before De Summer Blow returned to the venue where it premiered on August 25 1995 .
A demand is gaining sway among Du’s nostalgic fans, including cardholders who were entitled to a free show after watching four on the trot, that turning famous plays of the founder of the first professional theatre business would perfectly immortalise his works.
However, Doreen says his children are not in a hurry to do so.
“We have thought about it, but first things first. We want this play to tour in all parts of the country,” she says.
Four of the 14 children of the fallen WET founding leader have come together to restage the rendition of the play in which Du played Grandpa. However, they are not touring in WET’s name, Doreen clarifies.
“This isn’t Wakhumbata, but his children and friends who performed theatre with him. It’s just a memorial. It would take a long process and a big decision to perform as Wakhumbata because there is a group of the same name