Malawi: Legendary Artists Need to Be Accorded National Recognition – As Tributes Pour in for Late Eric Mabedi

As tributes pour in for late Eric Mabedi, one of Malawi’s legendary drama actors, kind thoughts have been shared on social media that Malawian legendary artists need to be accorded ‘deserved’ national recognition.

Mabedi — whose stage name was Jacobo in a duet performances with late John ‘Izeki’ Nyanga — passed on in the early hours of Monday and as a tribute, Mzondi Lungu posted a video clip on Facebook of a comedy that the two once recorded.

Lungu’s caption to the clip said: “No one has entertained us in Chichewa drama like these guys. Mabedi rest in peace!”

Journalist extraordinaire, Madalitso Musa’s post said: “I thank God I lived during the time of Izeki ndi Jakobo. Now that Jakobo has gone to join Izeki up there, we will mourn, we will mourn, we will.

“But up there, there is laughter. Even angels will laugh in their singing while Izeki has welcomed Jakobo. For the laughter, we thank God. Rest Well Eric Mabedi.”

Clever Ngwalo wrote: “Go you well, Eric Mabedi/We are just passing by/This world isn’t our home.”

There have been many Malawian artistic legends who passed but “go silently and are buried in unmarked graves with no formal recognition of any sort”, writes Umi Nawata on Facebook.

Nawata described Mabedi as “one of the best theatre giants” but unfortunately, “in Malawi, only politicians are recognized as heroes and are buried with millitary honours, conferred with honorary degrees, have places and structures named after them etc!

“In Malawi, artists, distinguished academicians and researchers, innovative entrepreneurs, inventors etc and others with rare skills such as footballers are not categorized as heroes — no matter their significant contribution to the socio-economic development of our country.

“This must change. There is this fallacious and jaundiced reasoning that only politicians have monopoly of contributing to the development of this country and hence monopoly of hero status regardless of whether they did literally nothing in their life time apart from jeering, cheering, sneering and laughing their lungs out in Parliament.

“Far from it! We have lots of patriotic sons and daughters of the land in other spheres and disciplines who have been, are working and have worked silently in revolutionary socio-economic transformation of fellow citizens and our country without seeking to capture media headlines or indeed through sponsored publicity.”

Nawata further opines that elsewhere people like Du Chisiza, Allan Namoko, Joseph Nangalembe, Lawrence Waya, Michael Mukhitho Yekha, Prof. Brown Chimphamba, States Samangaya, Maria Chidzanja Nkhoma, Michael Sauka, Ndiche Mwalale, Tambala Chitenje, Black Paseli of Napolo fame and many other gone to eternity “could have been immortalized through various means such as being awarded post humous honorary degrees, naming related events, scholarships, structures after them, among others”.

“As a country we lack systematic and standard mode of honouring our heroes which can just be triggered in such events. Our approach to ‘honouring’ our heroes is ad hoc, subjective whim-based and very discretionary, to say the least.

“In other countries, even Parliament spares moment to celebrate and pay tribute to heroes of the land! Malawi surely needs to seriously re-work its definition of a ‘hero’!” Nawata said.

Fryson Chodzi reminisces of his yesteryears he and many others would throng venues where Kwathu Drama Group were performing — with Eric Mabedi and John Nyanga on their minds.

“Finally the curtain [for Eric Mabedi] closes. This is the final bow on drama in Malawi,” he said. “The first time I saw Kwathu Drama Group was in 1985 performing a play that made ‘Alufeyo’.

“In those days, young as I was, I couldn’t afford to pay at the door, so we would hang around the performance until the last 10 minutes when the doors would be opened and we would quickly rush in for the last grimpse of the performance and laughter.

“Of course, Alufeyo — late John Nyanga — would poke a jab at us at times, saying ‘nthawi ya malova’. A few years later I would make some savings and indeed pay up and watch the entire performance.”

Growing up in Kawale, gave Chodzi and other drama enthusiasts an opportunity to witness all the greatness in Malawi arts at close by theatre of Kamuzu Institute for Youth (KIY).

“We witnessed and enjoyed it all. We cherished Du Chisiza’s Wakhumbata Ensemble Theatre (WET) and in those days when English ‘Ikutigaya’ we would laugh as the audience was laughing, until in the days of ‘Barefoot in the Heart’ which I think was the last time WET was allowed at KIY.”

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