A month ago, it did not go well between me and Malawi’s Robert Chiwamba after criticizing the content of his controversial ‘Takana Mathanyula’ (We Say No To Homosexuality) piece. Let me admit that I regret some of the words I used in my responding article. But I maintain the message to be as it was intended: The poem was below standards, and content-wise, it was filled with wrong information.
Chiwamba has established himself as a popular poet in Malawi. He is part of the generation of performers who have left experts and observers wondering, if what they are doing can indeed be referred to as poetry. The intention for some of them is to make the audience laugh and the reciting with the paper in hand has greatly killed the art in it. The paper has created a barrier between them and the audience. These are some of challenges the sudden rise of poetry in Malawi is facing.
It must be appreciated that Chiwamba is a hard worker in what he does. In the last two years, the amount of work coming from him can tell a story that whenever he has time he makes sure poetry gets a good share of it. But his work leaves a lot to be desired. His latest ‘Takana Mathanyula’ is problematic. Unlike him, Q Malewezi, the man who has invited him to his next performance on April 2, 2016 at the Bingu International Conference Center for his album’s launch, has established himself as one of finest poets we have in Malawi. In fact, he should be credited for waking up this side of art in Malawi. With people like Gospel Kazako, Innocent Kaneneni and Wokomaatani Malunga seemingly no longer main acts on the scene they once dominated, the young has to come in and fill the space. Q and Chiwamba are the examples of the hope we have.
But Chiwamba, this is not a personal attack. It is an innocent advice from a person who would like to see poetry growing big in Malawi. The Q launch is a big avenue for you. Count yourself lucky that you are part of the elite, as far as the launch is concerned. Rise up to the show and avoid the mediocrity of the ‘Takana Mathanyula’ level. I understand the backing you received from the public on the piece was strong and flattering. But do not get carried away by it. Art is meant to be ‘higher’ than the ‘Takana Mathanyula’ message. The event will involve people from all walks of life, and more, people who have had the privilege of understanding the homosexual debate in a deeper sense than the ones who backed you. I even suspect some homosexuals will be in the audience. The temptation will be that “I have to say the truth no matter what.” But that is not the occasion to do that. Deliver something classic to the people and not using the occasion to stamp your beliefs and views on them. It will not be a civil event. It will be an artistic one, and it should be treated like that by you. My humble advice is that, unless asked, do not perform ‘Takana Mathanyula’.
*Wonderful Mkhutche is an author, a political scientist and a manuscript editor and developer