What good can come from Usisya, a far-flung spot on sandy and rocky shores of Lake Malawi eclipsed by a bumpy, hilly road that has left prices of basic goods doubling much to the hardship of poor fishers who call it home?
Not just fish, obviously. Maybe nationalist Murray William Kanyama Chiume, a former minister who was expelled into exile after rebelling against founding president Kamuzu Banda in 1964.
Now another Chiume, his niece Connie, who played Mamokete in Rhythm City, has become talk of this part of Africa having played a royal role in this year’s most anticipated movie Black Panther.
“I don’t know how to describe my job being part of the such a big movie,” she tells Huffington Post. “I feel that the horizon is widening.”
She regards the Disney-Marvel production the biggest highlight of her illustrious career spanning 40 years.
Born in the 1950s to Wright Tadeyo Chiume, who migrated from the northern tip of Nkhata Bay to work in the mines of South Africa, the veteran screen and stage actor also waxed lyrical of her Malawian roots and hard-to-reach land of her father.
Usisya, only reached using a slippery road and risky boats, is a picturesque tourist destination tucked in a hilly, shoreline spot like a secret too good to be open for all.
From Rhythm City, Connie has made a triumphant entry into Hollywood with Black Panther shattering Box Office records and myths which hold back films based on African stories that put black actors in the forefront.
Despite her success, it appears she has has not forgotten a bit of her ‘fatherland’.
When her cousin, Nathan Kanyama Chiume, congratulated her for the movie’s unprecedented run since its release for the cinemas on Friday, she responded in flawless Tumbuka: “Tawonga chomene.”
When asked if she has ever stepped in her ancestral hometown, fondly christened UT for Usisya Town, she brimmed with the pride that tracing her heritage to the Hidden Paradise only reached by risky travels evokes.
“These feet have proudly walked on that Paradise many times,” she wrote back.
In fact, Nathan brought the veteran South African actor closer to home.
“She was born and raised in South Africa by a Malawian father from Usisya [and a South African mother who is still alive]. Our grandfathers were siblings, two of the original three Chiume brothers who settled in Usisya after relocating from Mzenga in Nkhata Bay Central,” he explained.
Now, Connie has firmly stepped in the glow and glamour that the American movie industry has long denied productions dominated by black casts.
Since the turn of the millenium, she has worked alongside Kim Basinger in I Dreamt of Africa (2000) and Samuel Jackson in In My Country (2004).
This time, she headed to the elite turf in Atlanta for the shooting of Black Panther in which she is part of a predominantly Black cast led by Kenya A-list movie star Lupita Nyong’o who took the world by storm when she starred in 12 Years A Slave.
The arrival of the new film on February 16 has received euphoric reviews.
Mesmerised cinema-goer Rosa Constanza aptly described it as “Pan African in how it blends cultures” for the imaginary state of Wakada.
Its director told The New York Times that it feels like “something fresh” is happening in Hollywood.
The success of Black Panther has compelled the top-rated newspaper to write: “Big-budget films that focus on black characters have long been held back by the Hollywood argument—a ridiculous one, in the eyes of many critics—that foreign audiences have little interest in films with largely black casts.
“It has been a self-fulfilling attitude; studios, ever fixated on what kinds of movies have succeeded in the past, never challenged the assumption with a big-budget fantasy because they were always too afraid to take the risk.”
On January 29, Connie and the rest of the cast jetted off to Las Vagas to grace the premiere of their famous movie which has shaken the roots and perspectives of Hollywood culture.