Katakwe, which is presented in a humorous way while giving valuable lessons of life, is indisputably one of the country’s popular cartoon master pieces crafted by one of the country’s prolific writers Lawrence Kadzitche.
This year, Kadzitche is celebrating 21 years of writing the inspiring, educating and entertaining stories of Katakwe.
Mostly, Katakwe stories deal with every day social, cultural, moral and religious issues like love, marital problems, corruption, religion and many others.
Kadzitche said he writes Katakwe stories in a unique way that the reader is forced to question some social and cultural beliefs that are taken for granted. For example, Katakwe may question that between someone who takes nude pictures for his or her own use and someone who exposes these pictures, who is wrong?
“The fundamental role of Katakwe is to expose the hypocrisy that is in society regarding many issues so that people may question some issues and make positive changes in their lives. And I am happy to contribute to the process of mindset and behavioural change through Katakwe,” said Kadzitche.
Musician-cum-journalist Nicolas Mbonela is one of the great fans of Katakwe and described Kadzitche as one of Malawi’s gifted writers who has helped to shape people.
“I have been a fan of Katakwe since I was a teenager. I drew several lessons from Kadzitche and his writings because he mirrors real issues that happen in our society,” said Mbonela who also created his own radio cartoon called Che Nkope Vs Nancy.
Another fan of Katakwe cartoon, Mercy Kaliyeka said she cannot remember reading the newspaper without looking for Katakwe.
“It is one of the key features that captivates my attention and makes me laugh. At the same time there is a topic that this character brings to the fore for discussion or food for thought,” she said.
Mostly, Katakwe stories deal with marital, moral and religious issues to help society reflect on some issues that have a direct impact on their lives.
Kadzitche said: “There are issues concerning the institution of marriage that must be questioned (like must people whose marriages have irrevocably failed still stay together just because of the society’s values or the church’s stand) and other moral issues relating to everyday issues like beer drinking.”
“When I first presented the character to Steve Bombeya, who was then One of the Chichewa editors at Nation Publications Limited, he tried to persuade me to write the character in English, saying I had a very good idea, but thought not many people would follow a character written in Chichewa. I stuck to my guns and the character had a tremendous welcome. Since then, Katakwe has had a great following by people from all walks of life. People have written, called me, texted me to express how they have enjoyed my stories.”
Kadzitche described his writing journey as exciting and satisfying journey. Apart from Katakwe, he has also plentifully contributed short stories in both Chichewa and English to local newspapers and magazines. He said from 1987 to 1995 most of his stories were in Chichewa and after that I switched to both Chichewa and English, with most of the stories being in English.
He has also written some Chichewa radio plays for Nzeru Nkupangwa programme on MBC and published seven books Katakwe Kutauni, Katakwe Zaka 10, Katakwe Kumudzi, Slay Queen, Katakwe Mdzina La Yesu and In the Spirit of Ines Tebulo. His seventh book is titled Bwantasa Ndi Anzake was published in December, 2022.
Additionally, Kadzitche has also been involved in movie projects.
Katakwe Kutauni was adapted as a movie titled ‘Tauni Sisunga Kape’. The Slay Queen was also adapted as a movie of the same name and it is available on YouTube.
“This year I am planning to adapt the story ‘Avenging Housemaid’ into a movie. Judging from the reception Katakwe has had, the landscape is good. I know people always complain that Malawians do not read, but when you have got good pieces they read. And in any case, to me, what matters is not the numbers. Even if my stories would be read by only one person, I would still write for that one person. Nothing gives me great satisfaction as when my story touches any person in whatever way,” said Kadzitche.
He added that creative writing space was changing rapidly; hence, Katakwe stories are found online, saying people are interested to read things online.
He described the reception of online stories as impressive and encouraging, adding he gets staggering feedback through the same medium (online).
Apart from online, the stories can also be found in books. Currently, there are four books of Katakwe that he has published so far.
However, Kadzitche’s word to aspiring writers was that they should start writing and persevere.
He said: “Writing is also rewarding. I have been to Uganda and Cameroon, just to mention some countries, courtesy of writing. People may say people do not buy books, but they do. People may say people do not read but they do. It may not be everybody but there some people out there who buy and read books. When you write good stories, the financial returns are quite satisfying.