John Nyanga popularly known as Izeki was arguably one of the best comedians the country has ever produced and was one of the founders of one of the oldest drama groups in the country – Kwathu.
His death yesterday afternoon at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre after a long illness has shocked many.
“The nation has lost a great artist, who loved art and it is from this art that he made his bread and butter. He sent his children to school through art, I am lost for words with his death,” said his longtime friend and comedian Eric Mabedi better known as Jakobo.
Izeki told The Daily Times last year that art is what has made him to be where he is today and that he will always thank God for the talent.
“This is what I love doing and I thank God for this talent. This is what has made a name for me and again I am happy that he made a way for me to meet with Eric Mabedi, he is such a true friend,” he said.
Mabedi said when he joined Kwathu in 1984, Izeki was already way up in the world of acting starring with Kwathu having joined earlier.
“It’s a great loss to the family, to me personally, the arts fraternity and the nation. He was very creative and his level of understanding in theatre was way up, only God knows why his death had to happen now,” said Mabedi, who soared with Izeki starring as Izeki and Jakobo in the comic world.
Mabedi, who is the director of Kwathu speaking yesterday at Izeki’s house in Ndirande, said he will miss his friend for the rest of his life.
He said they were still making arrangements for the burial of Izeki but confirmed that he would be buried tomorrow.
“The other details we will communicate later. But for now the remains are at College of Medicine in Blantyre. The remains will be taken from College of Medicine tomorrow [Monday] to Ndirande,” said Mabedi.
He also said that they had planned to hold his funeral service at Blantyre Cultural Centre (BCC) formerly French Cultural Centre where he made a name but had now settled for BAT ground.
“The family wanted Blantyre Cultural Centre because that is where John Nyanga made a name but we thought the venue is small and so the service will be held at BAT ground and that I can confirm,” said Mabedi, as he struggled to speak.
According to him, with Izeki, they were the first comedians to put their comics on cassette and other platforms.
Their works which included Njinga did not only win the hearts of Malawians but also neighbouring countries such as Zambia where they are still popular.
Another comedian Michael Usi alias Manganya said Izeki was one of the pioneers of comedy and acting in the country and that he was at pains with his death.
“Izeki was one of the pioneers of theatre in the country. Many of us who are starring now learned from him and others. He actually laid the foundations and made people love theatre,” said Usi.
He said many of them are today enjoying the fruits in the theatre industry because Izeki and others made it sweeter while some wrote off the trade as useless.
“Izeki has changed the lives of many people with his comics because through the comics he was teaching and through his works he also helped develop the country,” said Usi.
Several other artists wrote on social media that they were saddened by Izeki’s death.
Musician Vita Chirwa said he was saddened to learn about Nyanga’s death.
“A great comedian, an accomplished playwright and a wonderful actor. My thoughts are with his family and his long time acting partner, Eric Mabedi, from whom I got the sad news,” he said.
Producer Mike Kambalame said from the production of Njinga DVD to numerous video productions he loved working with Izeki, “you made my work as producer so simple….your talent was so unique…. May your soul rest in peace,” said Kambalame.
Poet Robert Chiwamba also said the nation has lost a creative artist, who loved what he was doing.
“Legends with Jesus Christ never die
They pass on to the other life free of disease and calamity.
You were a legend at your game and remembered Jesus Christ as well. Thanks for a few minutes we shared Rest well Mr John ‘Izeki’ Nyanga until we meet again,” said Chiwamba.
Lilongwe-based actor Chancy Mauluka described Izeki as a comedian of his own class.
“Izeki defied principles and introduced his own popular form. He laughed with you and drove the moments like no other would do. What an arsenal of talent and skills! May his soul rest in peace,” said Mauluka.
Izeki was born on June 13, 1963. He hailed from Nyangayathyoka Village, Traditional Authority Mabuka in Mulanje.
He is survived by a wife and three children.
Izeki started acting at a very tender age. He started in the church before joining Kwathu Drama Group where he was one of the founders in 1980.
In the 1990s he left Kwathu and formed his own group known as Alufeyo Performing Arts. The name came from a play Madzi Akatayika whose book was written by Willie Zingani.
After his stint with Alufeyo Performing Arts, Izeki went back to Kwathu Drama Group where he performed for sometime before he later turned born again and started preaching the word of God. He also went on to form his own church.
The comedian, who also had a radio programme on Joy FM, stopped starring with Kwathu Drama Group but continued his comics with Jakobo.
Izeki and Jakobo also went on to produce comedies recently which were sponsored by MultiChoice Malawi through GOtv.
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