It is a disease in Malawi, where people are not honoured while they are alive, bemoaned Malawi Writers Union (Mawu) President Sambalikagwa Mvona.
He said this on Saturday during the celebration of the life and works of veteran author, historian and economist Desmond Dudwa Phiri, commonly known as DD Phiri, held at Jacaranda Cultural Centre and Maison de la France in Blantyre.
Mvona, who was among the speakers, said Malawi was big in the world of writing outside the country because of writers such as DD Phiri.
“It is only here in Malawi where writers like DD Phiri are not recognised but we are big outside the country. It is a disease in Malawi and this is why we do not recognise our people when they are alive,” Mvona said amidst applause from the audience.
He said the event itself organised by Jacaranda, Anglia Bookstore and DD Phiri’s granddaughter Chimwemwe, could have attracted a huge audience
Mvona said, by now the country would have honoured DD Phiri by naming a street after name.
“We could have honoured him through a street—at least one of the big streets and not a smaller one. He is a great man, who should be remembered all the time,” said the Mawu president.
Describing him as a father of Mawu, Mvona said during his visit to one of the writing platforms in Ghana, DD Phiri was spoken of highly and that he was equated to other great writers such as Chinua Achebe and Ngugu wa Thiong’o.
“I would like to thank the organisers for coming up with this special event. We should not stop here but should go further in forming a DD Phiri Foundation,” Mvona said.
The event which attracted writers and academicians, among others, started in the afternoon but went all the way to the evening with the main man taking time to speak on history of the nation, economy as well as tipping budding writers on writing.
After he spoke, the audience had time to ask questions in a question and answer session.
The legendary writer, now 86 years old, earlier on also had time to view some of his pictures during his education in London, family life and several articles he has written, which were on exhibition.
There was also a board where people wrote their tributes and, again, there was an Anglia Bookstore stall where some of his books were being sold and people took time to buy some.
“I will leave to remember this day. I am grateful to the organisers, including my granddaughters. It was a wonderful moment,” DD Phiri said.
Earlier on, DD Phiri also joined Dikamawoko Arts in dancing one of the Ngoni traditional dances, Ingoma, while Agorosso and C.O., real name Code Sangala, also performed.
His son Kwame, who is retired and is in his 60s said:
“This is a great event and, as a family, we are grateful that some people thought of celebrating his life and works. We thank God that his life is being celebrated while he is still alive as, in Malawi, the trend is to celebrate people when they are dead,” Kwame said.
He described his father as a hard working man.
French Honorary Consul and Jacaranda Foundation Executive Director, Luc Deschamps, described DD Phiri as a great writer, economist and historian.
“He has been in the forefront encouraging the youth to study and read to achieve great things. He has been an inspiration and we thought of bringing his family together to learn from him,” Deschamps said.
Author Alfred Msadala, Member of Parliament Aaron Sangala and publisher Egidio Mpanga also heaped praise on DD Phiri.
A London University trained economist and historian, he runs DD Phiri Forum column in The Nation and DD Phiri Insight in The Daily Times.
He has published several books in the fields of history, social studies and economics and was recognised by the Pan-African Writers Association as one of the top 23 authors in Africa in 2011.
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