Good people, the discovery of versatile artist Baba Twaya Sanudi in South Africa is supposed to be good news for those who feared he was dead.
Reports have it that he was found perched on a bench in a park, with stacks of paper. He is purported to be writing a book.
This could be the tale of another Dambudzo Marechera, a lookalike of the Zimbabwean unconventional writer whose demented book House of Hunger stunned the world having won the coveted Guardian Fiction Prize.
Not long ago, some friends and relatives launched a search for Baba, but they hit a blank after the former Wakhumbata Ensemble Theatre and Nanzikambe Arts actor who founded Alabama Repertoire Theatre vanished from where he was said to be holed up.
So fragile is the mind which gifted us the tagline ‘Alabama ndi moto wa mudondo [bushfire]’, that he needs to be handled carefully.
The allure of one of the finest performers to have graced the country’s theatrical spaces has given in to revolting rags only fit for sorry street comedians.
We are hearing all he needs is a flute to cheer him up as he completes the book.
Don’t kill the dream. The book could be more than just an escape, a coping strategy.
The Malawian Dambudzo needs mentorship and psychotherapy to nurture his dream project as he wallows between the struggle for sanity and making his dreams come true.
Heartbreaking as he looked, Dambudzo, the author of Black Sunlight, was not entirely mad. Of all things that shattered his mind, he was pure dynamite—and he deftly defied the draconian dos and don’ts of western prose, burdening and battering his brain to smithereens with his own liberated genius and torrential ego.
He loved it that way and he made no secret about it in the opening line of House of Hunger: “I packed my bags and left.”
He did several times and what drove him into this troubling state was not clear-cut.
But writing can be a healing, a safe space for expressing one’s unique frame of mind.
Besides a giving Baba a decent home and mental recovery, he needs his writing skills to emancipate himself from mental slips that reportedly begun before he trekked southwards.
Clearly, many want Baba to return to Blantyre where he found himself banished into an unsung music career.
Yes, Baba must pack his things and leave.
Not just leaving the park.
Not just to please those chanting: bring him Baba!
But to revert to an environment where his dreams will come true.
It will be shocking if he leaves to disappear again, for some people clamouring for his return did not care when his world started falling in almost a decade ago.
Some Malawians are kind, but others who want him back may abandon him and start dehumanising him based on his current situation.
Baba’s friends agree he was already losing it when he sung a few Afro-jazz tunes and decided to flee the country in search of new economic opportunities in Johannesburg.
Not many cared when the country’s impoverishing theatre context, which continues to eject its finest servants to teaching and other sectors, proved too harsh for his liking.
Who will take care of Baba’s basic needs when he returns to the harsh world? What rehabilitation and resettlement plans are in place for his wellness?
Baba must pack his stacks and leave for a better livelihood.
He must not leave to vanish again as did the gifted Dambuzi did in 1982 when a crew flew him from London to Harare to shoot a movie based on House of Hunger.