YDC to stage Chilembwe production on Martyrs’ Day
Youthful theatre group YDC holds their first musical production this year, staging a play titled Operational Mandala 1915 written by Fumbani Innot Phiri Jr at Jacaranda Cultural Centre (JCC) in Blantyre on Friday, which is Martyrs’ Day.
The theatre outfit has always held this play on Chilembwe Day, which falls on January 15 every year, but, this year, they decided to move it to Martyrs’ Day.
“We are set and staging this play is in the essence of coming up with Malawian classic productions. I was inspired to write this play because I love history and this is all about honouring our national heroes,” Phiri said.
He said through drama, they want to remind people, particularly the young generation, about where they country is coming from and the importance of capturing moments that reflect the country.
“As said, we decided to utilise Martyrs’ Day because Operation Mandala 1915 is not only about Chilembwe but the story mirrors other heroes who fought for the country’s freedom alongside Chilembwe,” he said.
Chilembwe is a Baptist pastor and educator who trained as a minister in the United States and returned to Nyasaland, now Malawi, in 1901.
He 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.
A synopsis of the play, directed by Jack Musumba, 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.
“This is a story that is historical and there has been a lot said. The spark that lit it was the failed mission to Mandala during the 1915 uprising,” Phiri said.
He maintained that this is the same story but it has been presented differently.
“This year, the focus is 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 Chilembwe story is one of them,” Phiri 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.
Some of the actors starring in the play include Aisha Juma, George Mpakati, Joseph Mwenelupembe, Ngwenyama Nkhata, Hendrina Sulungwe, Tio Mzoma, Chatonda Mtawali and Wiseman Kadzandira.