Despite the global and regional success that South African actress Connie Chiume has achieved throughout her illustrious career, she has remained proud of her Malawian origins. She prefers referring to herself as a ‘Salawian’.
Though she is a frequent visitor to Malawi, her Malawian story has remained incomplete. Having starred in countless film and television productions in South Africa and Hollywood, the actress is yet to have a feel of the Malawian film set.
Not anymore. Connie, whose father comes from Usisya in Nkhata Bay was recently presented with a chance to complete her acting circle. After an encounter with Ashukile Mwakisulu, producer of local television soapie Choices at the European Film Festival, a carrot was dangled before Connie’s face.
It was a chance she could not turn down: “He had a proposal on the table which I gladly accepted because it has been one of my dreams to do something in Malawi and I think this is just the beginning.”
Her debut appearance on the local TV screens will be courtesy of her role in Choices as Pauline Siliya, a mother who left her children while they were very young for South Africa having eloped with a stranger. She then comes back with the hope of reconciling with her children.
Having starred in three episodes of the production during her stint with members of her family over the festive season in Malawi, Connie could not resist but applaud the relationship she struck with her co-actors, their talent and professionalism.
“There is great potential. I saw very dedicated film makers in the industry, beautiful stories and beautiful craftsmanship. I saw talent, I saw passion. People who work under difficult conditions, but they still persists to do what God blessed them with,” she says.
The actress, who is best known for her character as Mamokete Khuse on SA’s popular television soapie Rhythm City, said it is a pity that the local film industry does not enjoy the deserved support from the government and the corporates as it ought to.
She says: “I am speaking from the observations that I made when I was at the film festival in August in Lilongwe. The potential is just huge. That is why I am saying that what a pity that government don’t realise that the film industry is one area that could create a lot of jobs and enable Malawians to tell their stories to the world and get Malawi on the map.”
She insists that one of the changes that can happen to get the local film industry ticking is by instituting a film school where people can go to get training and perfect their craft to act as a feeder for the industry.
Connie also has some advice for the players in the arts and film: “They need to come together to form a union so that they should have a body where they can speak with one voice, where they can highlight their challenges, their wishes, aspirations and all of that.”
Connie is now back to her base in South Africa, what now happens to her Pauline Siliya character in Choices? Is it the end of her involvement with the production?
“I am open to come back. The role has already started so I don’t think it will be nice just to have the character that I was playing making an appearance and then it disappears. It will be nice to continue with it.
“And I also don’t mind coming to work with any other production house in any other part of Malawi. My only disadvantage is that I don’t speak Chichewa, I don’t even speak my language Tumbuka not through choice but because of the place where I was born [chuckles],” she says.
Producer of Choices Mwakisulu was full of praise for what he calls an amazing experience that was brought on the Choices set courtesy of Connie.
He said Connie brought them lessons that will stay with the group for ever.
“Her dedication and passion stands out. She never looked down on us but encouraged us. It really took a bit of time for it to sink in. Here there was a Hollywood actress reciting lines by a struggling local film maker. It was so humbling as well as exciting,” he says.
Mwakisulu explains that by nature storylines for soaps are ongoing and they have kept Connie’s character open.
Connie was born in 1952 and has starred in Hollywood’s movie Black Panther, Zone 14, Warriors From Hell, In My Country, Ring Of Lies, Soul City and Yizo Yizo, among other high profile television and film roles.