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A complete artist that was Steve Chimombo

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April 23 every year is the World Book and Copyright Day. This is the Day which was set aside by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in 1995.

The date is the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega.

The day is also the birth or death of several other prominent authors and coincidentally University of Malawi – Chancellor College (Chanco) Writers Workshop set this day to celebrate the life of one of the country’s famous writers and author of The Rainmaker Steve Bernard Miles Chimombo, who died in December last year.

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The country is still at pains to lose this literary colossus, who was the founder of the Chanco Writers Workshop but the memorial show at the Great Hall in Zomba was all about celebrating his life and works and this was shown through the various performances on the night.

The audience dominated by students was impressive during the free memorial show which run under the theme Contributing to Malawian literature: Chimombo living through words.

Chimombo’s family which included his wife Moira, sons Zangaphe and Napolo, grand children and other relatives were present during the memorial show.

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This was a special night and Moira said her husband was such a writer and that he never stopped writing.

“This was a real day for writers. And you may recall that today is also World Book Day. Steve left a legacy and this is the legacy being shown tonight and this is what happens with writing. Steve is living with his words,” said Moira.

She said her husband wrote several books and some of them were being sold during the memorial show.

Veteran poet Benedicto Wokomaatani Malunga, who excited the people with his verses including ‘Siananso Awa,’ said he was delighted to be part of the event.

“Professor Steve Chimombo was the embodiment of everything that is beautiful about art and culture. It is exciting that writers workshop here organised this event because this was Steve’s home where he helped horn skills of many writers and that the rest of them as former members could only join,” said Malunga.

The veteran poet further said Chimombo was a complete artist, who inspired them in many ways.

“He was as good writing short stories as he was composing drama, he was as engaging, delivering a novel as he was tearing apart a piece of work that was written in a shoddy manner. Seldom do you get artists that are multifaceted like that,” said Malunga.

He added: “That is why his output is unprecedented in this country and this was a befitting honour to a man of many faces.”

Chanco Writers Workshop President Angali Chagwamnjira said they were satisfied with the event and that it was all about honouring Chimombo for his contribution to the Malawian literature.

“He was the founder of the Chanco Writers Workshop and so this was a great chance to honour him. Most of the writers have been influenced by his work and this was also a platform to show that the Chanco Writers Workshop is still there despite not being vibrant,” said Chagwamnjira.

Some of the performances on the night came from writers clubs from Catholic University and The Polytechnic.

There were also performances from Yangairo Yangairo, Yankho Seunda, Chanco Travelling Theatre, Seth Tembo, Paul Sezzie, Alfred Msadala, Norman Nyirenda, Zondiwe Mbano and Mufunanji Magalasi.

There was also a special moment when the audience experienced a live painting from Van Gogh, whose finished painting he gave to the Chimombo family.

Gogh showed his skills starting from scratch until a finished painting with Wokomaatani reading the Bible from the book of Genesis.

He received a standing ovation from the audience at the end.

Zangaphe, who translated The Rainmaker a play written in 1975 in Chichewa titled Mmatsakamula was the one who closed the chapter on the night and he nearly shed tears during his performance.

Born on September 4, 1945, Chimombo was a professor of English at Chancellor College and was considered one of the nation’s leading writers.

In 1988 his Napolo Poems gained him honourable mention for the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa.

Survived by a wife, three children and five grand children, Chimombo’s other works include The Hyena Wears Darkness, The Bird Boy’s Song, The Culture of Democracy: Language, Literature, the Arts and Politics in Malawi, Napolo and the Python, Python! Python!, The Basket Girl and Wachiona Ndani?.

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