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Peter Moses’ calming words

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The act of drawing images— be it buses, family cars, freightliners, bicycles, wheelbarrows, birds, hippos, elephants, lions, crocodiles, buildings, or whatever— was something that could, to my surprise, be carried out easily by fine artist Peter Moses, a self-taught keyboardist who, in the early 2000s, had a stint with Balaka-based Alleluya Band.

He could come up with a concept within seconds and, within hours, draw impressive objects on whatever piece of paper he could lay his hands on. Now, Peter Moses [we always called him Peter Moses, for he did not like it when he was referred simply to as Peter or Moses. So, I will call him Peter Moses throughout] was a genius.

His father, who founded Pillar of Fire Church in Salima District— when I travelled there a few months ago, as part of my holiday excursion, it hit me as a surprise that what used to be Pillar of Fire at Takomana is no longer Pillar of Fire. There is another church there — bought for the church a Yamaha keyboard.

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Peter Moses got his chance and started teaching himself the keyboard. I would sometimes be there to watch him translate whatever sound was impressing his mind to something we, in our innocence, could call music. Those were the days of Zeze in Moni Magazine! I do not know whether Peter Moses wanted to impress people as someone who was a fanatic of Moni Magazine or what, but he got into the habit of calling me Zeze.

And, sure enough, Peter Moses could pick me out of a crowd— those days, the ‘crowd’ was simply personalities such as Evance Kapwepwe, Misheck Mahommed, Fred Chatsika, Chancy Mankhokwe, Phinias Mzeremu, William Mzeremu, Ali Mzeremu, Tikulirakuti, Kapalinje Gama, Hassan Gama, Madalitso Chilombo, among others— by simply shouting: Zeze! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

It hits me as funny that I could actually respond positively to that name.

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But that is not the story today. The story is that Peter Moses drew some beautiful buses modelled on, I would say, Speedlink [the automatic buses that took the country by storm, thanks to Shire Bus Lines [may Shire Bus Lines’ tyres rest in eternal peace! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!] when Speedlink was just an idea. Yes, before those Speedlink buses came to Malawi.

So beautiful were the drawings that I could have easily put them on the wall in our Takumana Escom house and go on with my life. But I wanted to impress my class mates at Kalonga Primary School and, so, took the drawings to school.

I remember that it was just after we had sang the song—

Kalonga School timanyadira

Karonga School timanyadira

Pa nzeru ndi pa mpira

Timanyadira x2 — when our Standard Five teacher, Mr Moffat [we, learners, had no interest in our teachers’ first names] stormed into the class. He found me unfurling the piece of paper that had Peter Moses’ drawings.

He came straight to me, grabbed the drawings, ‘inherited’ them and, when I visited his house a week later, found the drawings hanging on the wall. I think he had sent me there to drop his books.

Well, I poured cold water [water I sourced in the teacher’s own house] on them and, when Mr Moffat came back home in the evening, he probably discovered what had happened to the drawings and kept it to heart.

The next day, he came to class in jovial mood but his countenance changed when he saw me.

“Richard, see me after classes,” he roared.

I sought after him after classes, and he told me to dig a pit latrine for “messing around with my drawings”.

How I laughed. Were those his drawings? They were Peter Moses’ drawings! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

Well, I dug the latrine but felt bitter inside— bitter for losing my drawings. Did I say ‘my’? Wrong. Peter Moses’ drawings!

Well, in September 1998, I left Salima District. For good. I went, first, to Dedza District then Kasungu then Blantyre. But my heart is always in Salima, although I was born in Chitawira, Blantyre.

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