BY SAM BANDA JNR:
After being out of the stage for some time due to academic work, veteran poet Benedicto Wokomaatani Malunga debuted at the storytelling session held at Jacaranda Cultural Centre in Blantyre on Saturday afternoon.
The storytelling sessions, spearheaded by Ekari Mbvundula and Wonawaka Gondwe, have been specifically featuring English stories but it was a different story on Saturday when Wokomaatani, who was the guest artist, read his piece in Chichewa.
He was the only one who read his work in Chichewa, with all the writers offering theirs in English.
The veteran poet famed for the poem ‘Ndidzakutengela Kunyanja Ligineti’, did not choose to read his story in Chichewa but he was asked to and although it was the first time, he excited the audience.
Saturday’s session was held under the theme Zinachitika Ku Malawi (It Happened in Malawi).
And so Wokomaatani picked the same title for his story telling people about a story that led to the construction of Gogo Chatinkha Ward at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre.
With his versatility and prowess in Chichewa which has led him to win the hearts of many people in poetry, his story was well crafted with all the juice, as he zeroed in on a professional doctor who opened a can of worms by telling the father and founder of the Malawi nation the late Kamuzu Banda the truth about the hospital’s situation upon his visit.
This led to Kamuzu promising to build the Gogo Chatinkha Ward.
The veteran poet said reading the Chichewa story took him down memory lane during Nzeru Nkupangwa on Malawi Broadcasting Corporation days when he used to entertain people with Chichewa stories.
“This was more like reclaiming my origins before I even became the poet people know me today,” he said.
Wokomaatani, who yesterday was also expected to star at the second edition of the Warm Heart Poetry Festival at Robin’s Park in Blantyre, described the event as impressive.
“I am happy with the event because it is relatively organised by young writers with greater enthusiasm,” he said.
The poet said he is fully back and that he is working on a Chichewa anthology of short stories.
There were a variety of stories from the theme.
Writer Temwani Mgunda read a story titled A Bitter Harvest which was written in memory of his friend, who died of HIV and Aids.
It was a touching story that kept people attentive as Mgunda read out the extract.
This was the first time for Mgunda, who has written several short stories, to read a story at the story-telling session.
Female writer Koleta Dama brought something different to the table when she read out a humorous story titled Kathryn’s 15 Minutes of Fame.
The story recounts Kathryn’s behaviour at the funeral where she creates a scene as she tries to avoid eating beans and instead wants meat and she ends up arguing with fellow women.
Koleta said she comes up with stories through what she encounters and that it was the same with this story.
The other stories read on the day were The Willow Tree by Khumbo Mhone and My Brave Brother by Theo Manda.
Mbvundula said it was a very good vibe for the session to have a first Chichewa story by Wokomaatani.
“Wokomaatani is popular with the crowd and, through his reading, it showed that people appreciate stories in vernacular. The story was historical and so we finished in style,” she said.
Having run the storytelling sessions for eight months now, shifting between Blantyre and Lilongwe, Mbvundula said they will take a break in August and return in September.
“The break will give us a chance to assess everything so that we come out with a bang and hope to come out with new things and new ideas,” she said.