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Stand up for Kufewa Acrobatics

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Lilongwe-based youthful group, Kufewa Acrobatics, has been there. They are not a new team.

It has been part and parcel of festivals in the country, where they have won the hearts of many with their skills in acrobatics.

It is, therefore, not surprising that Kufewa Acrobatics has recently raised the country’s flag following the production of their kung-fu movie titled The Town Monger, which was posted on social media.

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Some of the movie’s clips went viral on social media, which prompted some international media to scramble for the clips.

Through the clips, the movie has been rated highly.

When it comes to kung-fu or martial arts movies, the names that come into the picture are those of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li, among others, but watching a clip of The Town Monger, one would not imagine that this is the work of a group of Malawian.

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Soon after the movie went viral, The Daily Times made attempts to meet the group for them to tell their story and that of the film.

And we finally met them at Kammwamba in Neno, where they were among performers who spiced up International Literacy Day, whose guest of honour was Minister of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development, Cecilia Chazama.

Their entry drew a delirium of cheers from the audience and it was as if many people on the ground had known that their Town Monger movie had gone viral.

They sparked with their acrobatics, which did not take much time due to the long list of activities on the day.

We had to wait for them to change their costume before we could do an interview.

They are a simple team that has gone through a lot in life but they have worked hard and are determined to do more using their skills.

Meeting the trio of 31-year-old Imaan Shaibu, his 25-year-old brother Rashidu and 30-year-old Jumani Kantunda, they were on top of the world that their film— shot, produced and directed by Shareef Atwab of Hashavwint Studios in Chinsapo, Lilongwe— was being discussed.

“We are excited that the movie is being discussed. Actually, we have been receiving a lot of phone calls since the movie was posted on social media. Actually what was posted is just a clip of the movie. We have a full movie which we are selling,” Imaan said.

He said the movie was produced with a purpose and that it is not only about kung-fu in The Town Monger, but they have a story to tell.

Kufewa Acrobatics was formed in 1999 by Imaan, Abdul Rashid, Juman, Alfred Hambali and Davison Geffrey, with the aim of staging mind-blowing acrobatics and martial art stunts in the townships of Lilongwe.

Through these skills, they also wanted to be performing in different venues and during events across the country and beyond as a means of earning a living.

Before Kufewa Acrobatics came into effect, Imaan said that they formed a group known as Black Monkey, which had seven members.

Based in Area 36 in Lilongwe, the team said they never went to school to learn the skills and that they learnt all this through watching martial arts movies.

“Acrobatics is our key area and we use this as part of entertainment and this has taken us to festivals where we have shared the stage with different acts. But martial arts is used for self-defence and this is why we came up with the movie,” he said.

The team indicated that they come from not-well-to do families and that this made it difficult for them to go further with their studies.

In 2002, the team started doing shows in the streets and, in 2015, an idea was hatched to put their experiences into a motion picture.

Jumani said they debuted with a film titled Khama before coming up with The Town Monger which talks about street children.

According to a statement from Kufewa Acrobatics, The Town Monger was produced with an aim of coming up with a movie from Malawi which is of high quality, action-wise, important, educative, honest, thought provoking, profitable low-budget for home viewing , theatrical motion pictures and television programming.

“We hope to gain more ground but, as I said, we want to use our talents to educate and disseminate different information and we are thankful that the government and the corporate world are utilising us in their programmes,” Rashid said.

The team admitted that The Town Monger was produced on a low budget and that, with little resources, they could not manage to produce a top quality movie.

“As I said earlier, this is an action movie and, in there, you sample karate, acrobatics and kung-fu skills and we are covering important issues of street children looking critically at crime, education, community development, tourism and sports,” Imaan said.

According to a statement from Kufewa Acrobatics, the movie used expertise of the main actors, which is multidisciplinary skills and that they used well-choreographed scenes showing stunts Hollywood can only do using their modern equipment.

This was supported by the attention-to-detail on sound effects by the producer, which has added to the film’s commercial value and audience appeal.

The team has since said it hopes to ride on the popularity of current clips of the movie— the ones that have gone viral— to bring a new perspective.

The Town Monger is a film about a group of martial artists who noticed a disturbing trend in the lives of children in Lilongwe, especially those from their neighbourhood in Area 36.

Led by a notorious gang of robbers, the children who masqueraded as beggars were being sent into the streets to steal from unsuspecting people.

It is from here that Kufewa Acrobatics come in and, using their skills, managed to take the children out of the streets and enrolled them in school and into their martial arts programme.

This then did not go down well with the gang leader, who asked his team to hunt down the children and deal with whoever was responsible for their removal from the streets.

This then was the beginning of the battle between the two groups.

With many people praising Kufewa Acrobatics for a job well-done in coming up with a kung-fu film, some quarters have said the corporate world and the film industry needs to support the team for them to come out with more movies.

Film Association of Malawi (Fama) President, Ezaius Mkandawire, said recently that there was talent in the country.

He said the creative industry has the potential to raise the country’s flag and help develop it but it is given little attention when it comes to support.

Meanwhile, Kufewa Acrobatics has created a Facebook page where they have indicated they will be posting information relating to their projects.

They have also indicated on their page that the script, the rights to the screenplay and other entitlements are under Kufewa Acrobatics and Hashavwint Studios and not any of the parties, who released clips of the movie online.

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