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‘Operation Mandala 1915’ stages at Jacaranda Cultural Centre

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Saturday, the country commemorates one of its heroes, John Chilembwe, a Baptist pastor and educator who is celebrated annually on January 15.

And youthful Blantyre-based group YDC takes to the stage Saturday afternoon to relive some of the historical events surrounding Chilembwe in a play titled Operation Mandala 1915.

The venue for the performance is Jacaranda Cultural Centre (JCC).

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Before the production, there will be a discussion on the theme Daring to Dream: The Radical Imagination of a New Generation.

“This year, through our community of Non-Violence Actors, we are celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Day and Reverend John Chilembwe on the 15th of January. Come and be a part of this historical event that we will be discussing the lives and philosophies of these two great men,” wrote one of the players Victor Chipofya Jr on his Facebook page.

YDC Theatre has in recent times been commemorating Chilembwe Day by staging a play and this year they are back with what they describe as a refreshed production fused with different elements including music.

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Chilembwe was an early figure in the resistance to colonialism in Malawi, opposing both the treatment of Africans working in agriculture on European-owned plantations and the colonial government’s failure to promote the social and political advancement of Africans.

Fumbani Phiri, who wrote the play being directed by Jack Musumba, said yesterday they were ready for the showdown and that they hadundergone massive rehearsals.

“Let’s celebrate John Chilembwe and let’s revisit our history and remind each other about what happened and then draw lessons,” Phiri said Thursday as they were making final touches to the production.

A synopsis of the play says, during the intervening 100 years since Chilembwe was wounded by rifle shots fired by Private Nasulo and Sergeant Useni and then killed by a shot to the head fired by Garnet Kaduya at or near the Magio stream, Mulanje on February 3 1915, speculation on the circumstances of his death – indeed whether he died at all or escaped into Portuguese East Africa – has been rife and a colourful mythology has emerged as his story has been told, retold and embellished by generations.

He said this is the same story but it has been presented differently.

“This year, the focus is on musical presentation. We have also fused in traditional elements and poetic devices,” Phiri said.

“Our future rises from the past and if we are to change or develop our nation then we need to know our history and look at the mistakes or struggles that happened and the Chilembwe story is one of them,” he added.

He said using art is the best way of telling classic stories and that, through the production, they want to motivate people, particularly young people.

The cast includes Aisha Juma, George Mpakati, Joseph Mwenelupembe, Ngwenyama Nkhata, Hendrina Sulungwe, Tio Mzoma, Chatonda Mtawali and Wiseman Kadzandira

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