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Ex-convict lives arts

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By Sam Banda Jnr:

PROMOTING CULTURE—Chichiri Prison Cultural Troupe performing on
Monday—Picture courtesy of Joshua Bhima

Chimwemwe Foster is an ex-prisoner who was at Chichiri Prison in Blantyre for close to eight years.

When he was sentenced, his world turned upside down such that he lost hope and never knew he would live a better life again.

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He was jailed after being found guilty of theft.

“I was found with stolen goods. It was painful for me after I was sentenced,” Foster said.

Life at Chichiri Prison was tough for Foster.

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“Prison life is very tough and you have no freedom but I thank God that He kept me safe throughout the eight years,” he said.

Today Foster, who is better known as Chigaza is out of prison and is now starring with Nkhokwe Arts, a Blantyre-based group made up of ex-convicts.

Despite prison life being tough, Foster was empowered through Chichiri Prison Cultural Troupe where he was involved in dancing, drama and other arts disciplines.

Foster is talented and whilest with Chichiri Prison Cultural Troupe he used to lead in songs and this he has continued with Nkhokwe Arts.

With Nkhokwe Arts, he has been involved in the bail project, where they staged several performances in the Southern Region sensitising people on bail.

Nkhokwe Arts has recently built on the success of their work with Malawi Bail Project, sensitising communities about bail procedures by bringing another project known as Mapiri ndi Moyo.

Mapiri ndi Moyo Project has seen Nkhokwe Arts expanding their scope to the environment and conservation, specifically around Mulanje Mountain.

“I am a changed person and I have all the freedom. The talent I have has really helped me because, with Nkhokwe, I am able to make ends meet,” Foster said.

His talent is so immense that he has also been on top of the game leading in songs in the play Mapiri ndi Moyo.

“Wherever we have gone for performances, we have received tremendous support. We work as a team and the good thing is that most of us were together in prison so we have jelled [and] that is why we connect well in performances,” Foster said.

Now married with one child Chisomo, the actor is from Thyolo District.

“Apart from art, which gives me money, I am also a farmer. The talent I have I would also say that it is inborn but then I started utilising it fully in prison,” he said.

Foster thanked organisations that utilise them in different projects.

“We are thankful to people like Effie Makepeace, Mphundu Mjumira and Tawonga Nkhonjera for taking us through the basics of drama and perfecting our work. Now we are able to hold performances and connect with the audience perfectly. We are not there yet but we are making progress,” he said.

Foster said art has raised his profile and given him work on the ground such that it is now his career.

“Through art and the performances we hold, I have been able to learn other things. For instance, in the Mapiri ndi Moyo Project, we had to camp at Mulanje Mountain for some time and interacted with people around learning more about Mulanje Cedar,” he said.

For Foster, prison life him discover that he had immense talent that was there to help change his life for the better

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