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Garden laughter

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There was that moment, in the history of our country, when laughter was synonymous with Zamadula, a character in local theatre.

That moment, now gone, might be such a long time ago that the post 1994 generation may be lost in the maze of its memories.

But, then, the truth is that there was that moment. A moment when Zamadula was laughter and laughter was Zamadula.

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In those days, people like me used to look forward to Zamadula’s laugh in Pamajiga, that Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) play that has stood the test of time.

Zamadula could laugh, like there was no tomorrow. It was as if laughter was a piece of flesh plastered in the mouth.

I remember an advert running on MBC, one in which Ambwana Chikadzakuwani disturbs people with incessant coughing. He coughs so loud that one would think someone is beating a drum.

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Well, I had never seen Zamadula before one rare moment in Dedza District.

In fact, I did not know that we shared a traditional authority – namely, Kamenyagwaza. Do not mind the district – until this one day when I went to my home village and one of my cousins [we call him Atole] took me to Zamadula’s vegetable garden.

Atole said: “Have you ever seen Zamadula?”

“No!” I said, excited.

“Okay, I will take you there. But, first, you have to show me that you are a good hunter by catching one mouse for me,” he said.

Well, I think that’s how he had planned the day out. He had heard that I was afraid of mice and could not dive at one.

I did not hesitate to join him. We went mice-hunting and I managed to catch my own mouse, though I caught it the wrong way [the tail] and it did bite me. I did not let go, for the sake of meeting Zamadula.

That afternoon, Atole took me to Zamadula. We found him in his vegetable garden. It was in Mng’ona Village.

He laughed that Zamadula laughter [if I can be given the licence to say it this way] and I laughed as well because his laughter was infectious.

The laughter sounded— not like Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! — but Ki! Ki! Ki! Ki! Ki! Ki! Ki! Ki! Ki! Ki! Ki! Ki!

That was a moment of relief for me; meeting someone I just heard of on radio.

That is my interest today. I do not want to say anything about how the nation lost out when he died. I do not want to say anything about the ‘short memory’ of this country, and how it has forgotten that great son of the land.

No. I just want to talk about that great moment in his vegetable garden.

Sometimes, I laugh by myself when I remember that great laugh. Oh, Zamadula, oh! What relief it was, that day in your garden!

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