Jolly Maxwell Ntaba

Soon after attainment of independence, the Pan-African movement gained ground in Malawi.

The ideologies also found their way into the creative writing world where most writers of African languages emerged.

One name that cannot be missed is Jolly Max Ntaba.

Ntaba is the best remembered  for his Chichewa novels
Ntaba is the best remembered for his Chichewa novels

Writing several Chichewa novels, and one English novel, Ntaba is considered as one of the finest Chichewa writers the country has ever produced.

Born Jolly Maxwell Ntaba in Chimonjo Village, T/A Khombedza in Salima on the December 31 1946, Ntaba was raised by his uncle after his father left him at a young age and his whereabouts were not known.

He was the only child until his mother remarried.

The passion for writing in the young Ntaba grew when he was still in primary school at Mguza Primary School from where he was selected to Dedza Secondary School, popularly known as Box 2.

It was at Box 2 where his passion for writing grew stronger and where he produced the manuscript for his first book Mwana wa Mnzako.

From Dedza Secondary School, he was selected to Soche Hill College where he was awarded a Diploma in Education in 1970 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Education in 1972.

In 1977 he earned a Post Graduate Diploma in Linguistics and English Language Teaching from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

He then earned a Masters of Arts in Applied Linguistics in 1982 from Reading University.

Ntaba joined the teaching profession in 1972 in Nkhata Bay where he taught at Bandawe Secondary School up to 1975.

In 1975, Ntaba joined the Polytechnic where he was a lecturer at the Department of Language and Communication until his death in 1993.

Despite the fact that Ntaba had an excellent command of the English language, he preferred to write in Chichewa.

He had an edge over other writers because he wrote on the subject he was familiar with and most of his novels were set in his home village.

His novels include Mwana wa Mnzako, Mtima Sukhuta, Ndiwe Wekha Mlamu, Akazi Aphetsa and Ikakuona Litsilo Siikata.

His last novel was in English and was called The Avengers Fury.

Ntaba was a regular contributor to popular magazines such as Moni, Malawi Police Magazine and Bonanza.

Ntaba also had a weekly column in Malawi News called Bob K Speaking which had the character Bob K as the persona.

Additionally Ntaba also wrote short stories that were read on MBC and the BBC.

In his free time, Ntaba was an avid photographer and loved reading and listening to music.

Ntaba died on May 26 1993 after suffering from kidney failure and is survived by a wife Regina, children Julliana, former MBC-TV presenter Jolly Jnr, Jolline, Jerry, Noel and Dalo.

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  1. What an interesting article! Can we have more of the same on other writers like Whyghtone Kamthunzi, Willie Zingani, Tobias Dossi, Eunice Gumbi, Richard Paliani, Ken Kalonde, E.J. Chadza, E.W. Chafulumira, Lawrence Kadzitche, John Gwengwe, Barnaba Zingani, Peter Mwaona, Francis Moto, Samuel Nthala, Innocent Masina Nkhonyo, Ananiya Ponje and others? The works of these authors should be reprinted and made available in bookshops for the younger generation to read.

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