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Nation mourns Jakobo

He was a theatrical pillar—Minister

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Izeki ndi Jakobo

The country is in pain and still shocked following the death of renowned actor and comedian Eric Mabedi, who died in the early hours of Monday at Mwaiwathu Hospital in Blantyre.

Mabedi died of Covid related complications and will be laid to rest today at Catholic Institute in Blantyre.

His death comes barely five days after the country lost veteran musician and broadcaster Sweeney Chinkango.

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Minister of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife Michael Usi said the country has lost a theatrical pillar and an icon who was passionate about theatre and art in general.

“It is a sad moment for the nation. Eric Mabedi was not an ordinary person. He was an icon and one cannot talk about theatre and comedy in the country without mentioning the name Eric Mabedi,” Usi said.

He described Mabedi as a teacher and that, through theatre and comedy, he travelled across the nation educating, entertaining and informing people.

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Mabedi was until his death Kwathu Drama Group Director and was also National Theatre Association of Malawi (Ntam) President. He was also Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) Board Member.

One of the oldest members of Kwathu Drama Group, Mabedi’s last performance was on Independence Day at Blantyre Cultural Centre, wherehe starred in a play titled Ana Akumpanda which was written by another veteran member Charles Mphoka.

“We are happy to be back after being out of the stage for almost two years. It’s hard with Covid; we just hope things will change so that we can tour with this play,” he told The Daily Times after the performance that attracted a huge audience.

He went on to say that they had given each other tasks with Kwathu members and other players such as ethno-musician Waliko Makhala to read musician Billy Kaunda’s book- Hills and Valleys to adapt it for the stage.

“Now it will be hard to embark on this task of staging this play. We had started the process of reading Billy Kaunda’s book,” Mphoka said.

This was one of the drives Kwathu had embarked on, having also previously staged plays Madzi Akatayika and Njala Bwana which are books written by veteran writer Willie Zingani.

Mabedi and Mphoka were the torchbearers of Kwathu and stood out stitching several productions tackling issues affecting society. Mabedi, among others, crafted plays such as Benedetta and Dziko.

“I don’t know what to say, I am lost for words. Eric was my friend and we were always doing things together. His death has left me in pain. We were a family in Kwathu. Kwathu is where it is today because he led it with all his heart and his leadership skills are what built this group,” Mphoka said yesterday at Mthunzi where Mabedi’s remains were kept ahead of the burial today.

Mabedi said then that Kwathu had travelled a long journey and that, once Covid cases go down, they were looking at celebrating their 41st anniversary.

Kwathu Drama Group spokesperson Bon Kalindo, popularly known as Winiko, said it was Mabedi who discovered his talent in Mulanje District before bringing him to Kwathu.

“I am Winiko because of Eric Mabedi. He saw potential in me and scouted me in Mulanje. He was a good person, very humble, a teacher, a leader and from him we learnt a lot as Kwathu family,” Kalindo said.

Another veteran actress Linda Chatha said the death of Mabedi was a blow to Kwathu.

“I am not sure about what will become of Kwathu but Kwathu was vibrant because of Eric Mabedi. He took all of us in the group not as actors but as family and helped us a lot to grow and even supported our families,” Chatha said.

Ntam Board Chairperson Timothy Chikoja said Mabedi’s death was a huge loss to the theatre family.

“The theatre family is at a loss. Eric was multitalented. He wrote and directed several plays and he remained faithful to theatre for over 40 years,” Chikoja said.

Cosoma Board Chairperson Maureen Sulumba said they were devastated with the passing on of Mabedi.

“He was one of our board of directors. The arts industry has lost an icon who had great talent. He was a board member full of creative ideas and wisdom. We, as a society, mourn together with the family and the nation. We shall miss luso losaguga. May his soul rest in peace,” Sulumba said.

A somber mood engulfed Mthunzi yesterday as Kwathu actors and other players in the theatrical world gathered to mourn a colossus of an actor.

Mabedi’s acting dates back to a tender age when he used to act in the church before linking up with the late John Nyanga.

Mabedi and Nyanga went on to grow their talent after being identified by the late Charles Severe and went on to create a comical brand Izeki ndi Jakobo which went on to conquer the country.

Most of the comedy duos that have come out over the years have adapted their style from Izeki ndi Jakobo.

The death of Nyanga was a huge blow to the Izeki ndi Jakobo brand that kept people mesmerised but Mabedi kept the comic alive through Kwathu performances and also went on to form a duo with Kalindo.

In 2018, Mabedi, who came from Thumbwe in Chiradzulu District, had a successful kidney transplant after battling diabetes.

Born on June 21 1963, he is survived by a wife and two children.

Heaven surely has gained, ending the Izeki ndi Jakobo brand as Mabedi was the remaining act. Izeki ndi Jakobo now reunite in heaven.

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