A star that was Steve Chimombo
One of the country’s famous writers and author of The Rainmaker, Professor Steve Bernard Miles Chimombo walked his last mile on Tuesday as hundreds of people escorted him to his final resting place in Samuel Village, Traditional Authority Malemia in Zomba.
The literary colossus died suddenly on Friday at Mwaiwathu Hospital in Blantyre.
From his residence in Old Naisi to Naisi just a few kilometres from Chinamwali Trading Centre, the majority of people spoke highly of the fallen writer.
As if endorsing one of his greatest works ‘The Rainmaker,’ heavy rains offered a perfect send off while the body was being taken to the grave until the minute his body was interred. A lot of people braved the rains to bid farewell to Chimombo.
Academician and art critic Mufunanji Magalasi said the whole nation could have been in Zomba if there was that chance.
“He was a creative person who wrote about the miseries of Malawian rain whether through The Rainmaker, his play or his poems Napolo or his novel The Wrath of Napolo,” said Magalasi.
He added that this was one of the biggest losses both in Malawian literature and dramatic performance including criticism of Malawian arts.
“He created a theory that he would use to appreciate Malawian arts and there is nobody who did this,” said Magalasi.
His wife Professor Moira Chimombo was the first to lay a wreath as she bade farewell to her best friend, colleague and husband. Then came his brothers and sisters and then late Chimombo’s children who included Zangaphe.
Zangaphe and Steve Kango earlier this year translated The Rainmaker play which his late father wrote in 1975.
The Chichewa version of The Rainmaker titled Mmatsakamula was staged at the Great Hall in Zomba by Chancellor College Travelling Theatre.
Directed by renowned playwright and drama lecturer, Smith Likongwe, the play impressed the audience in The Great Hall among them Professor Francis Moto and Chimombo’s wife Moira, who were the first to star in the play in 1975.
“He was a prolific writer and this is why we want to make sure that we resuscitate his works. Actually with his son Zangaphe we also want to publish the Chichewa version of The Rainmaker. Again having premiered the play Mmatsakamula, we want to have a countrywide tour,” said Likongwe, who was also taught by Professor Chimombo.
He said they decided to stage the play as this was on the occasion of the 40th anniversary since the play was first produced and part of the university’s 50th anniversary.
Chimombo’s play The Rainmaker is basically a poetic elaboration of an event which looms large in the oral history of Malawi. The event in question is the rise of a separatist religious cult associated with the prophet-priest M’bona which split off from an older cult dedicated to the High God Chauta.
Publisher Egidio Mpanga, described Professor Steve Chimombo as a person who modernised oral literature.
“It’s a sad day in that we will never see Steve Chimombo again but his legacy will still live on through his works.
“So today we are celebrating a life of a very talented and creative writer. As his name Miles, this is a milestone as he modernised oral li terature from a Malawian perspective but also international world and all his writings were based on culture,” said Mpanga.
Writer Khalipina Mpina said he was inspired by Professor Steve Chimombo’s writings and he is saddened by his death.
“Many young writers got inspired with his writings through the Wasi Magazine. A lot of writers have benefited a lot through his writings. We will miss him and may his soul rest in peace,” said Mpina.
Born on September 4, 1945, Professor Chimombo was educated at Zomba Catholic Secondary School, then at the University of Malawi where he earned his degree.
He then went to University of Wales, in UK where he obtained a teaching diploma in English as a second language. He then went on to obtain his masters and PhD in teaching at Columbia University in United States of America.
Professor Chimombo also studied at Leeds in England before he returned home and went on to edit a literary bulletin known as Outlook-lookout.
He 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 and last year he received Legendary Award from Malawi Writers Union (Mawu) alongside other veteran writers DD Phiri, Dr James Ng’ombe and Willie Zingani.
Survived by a wife, three children and four grand children, Professor 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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