She has made headlines as the woman behind Fashion Malawi Edition and CREAM. On September 16 she will bring together fashion enthusiasts in Lilongwe for FAME 2011. Zilanie Tamara Nyundo also happens to be married to musician Sally Nyundo, she is creative and now plans to add being an author as part of her portfolio. ALBERT SHARRA talked to this vibrant woman of art.
You are involved in Fashion through CREAM! Women in the arts! Are you doing anything for female artists in Malawi?
CREAM is a network of women in the arts. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m the founding chairperson. When a member needs support with project, we offer human resource and expertise and access to resources. We plan capacity building events through workshops and seminars. We created the Superwoman Artsfest to be an annual event where women from all walks of art can profile and perform. The next one is in March next year. FAME is my personal fashion project which CREAM supports. Other members also have big events such as Miss Malawi, Blantyre Artsfest.
Tell us more about FAME?
FAME started out as a simple fashion show to give fashion designers a solid podium to showcase their work. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s evolved into a bigger project that involves other fashion events managers from other countries and its possibilities are huge. We have taken on youth designer mentoring and the environment as our cause cÃƒÂ©lÃƒÂ¨bre too.
What should people expect at FAME on September 16?
Fashion is about using designing talent to create a certain pizzazz, glamour. We expect it to be a night of glamour and beautiful people thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why our theme song is Beautiful People by BlantyreÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s urban talent Sonye.
It seems this is the second time to host such an event. Any difference with the previous one?
More designers, more glamour, more of everything. Though we had such great success with the first one, we insiders learnt some lessons and have improved with age!
When did it occur to you that you wanted to venture into your chosen career?
I grew up in Kenya and Zambia and attended schools there and in Malawi (St. Andrews) and the UK. I lived in England studying and working in arts events management. I came back to Malawi after I dropped out of law school and was at a loose end. I spent three glorious years building a tourist lodge business on the northern lakeshore and finally getting to know my country in the late nineties. I even voted in my first election in 1999.
I went back to study hospitality and tourism, but I was still drawn into the entertainment industry; promotions, PR and record companies. Touring and meeting some of the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s most phenomenal artists has been a privilege and a lot of fun. I came back to Malawi in 2005 intending to contribute to hospitality and tourism, but ended up back in the arts. On the plane on the way home, someone offered me an events job. I had to accept that the creative industries are my calling.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve also been a writer all my life. When I team that with advocacy from an early age and an inquisitive nature, then it should have been obvious I would be drawn to journalism instead of law. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve written for magazines around the world and helped set up some in Malawi, Fairlane, Abstrak Beatz, The Traveler till I was drawn into The Guardian.
You are also very influential behind the scenes of Arterial Network having been elected chairperson. How are you connected to this?
Arterial Network is a civil society organisation for the advancement of the arts and culture in Malawi and Africa. We serve the interests of our membership which is creating a conducive environment for the growth of the creative industries. Arterial exists to ensure the rights of arts and culture practitioners are respected, that policies are in place to effect healthy growth in this sector.
Who have you managed apart from Tiwonge Hango?
I have managed only one artist fully- Wambali Mkandawire and as you can see his musical work is not yet done. God has called on him to worship with praise music and the new album Liberty has been very well welcomed. I have worked with Tay Grin, Tiwonge, my cousin Wendy Harawa and several other musicians.
You are married to musician Sally Nyundo. Should we say he is dragging you into the entertainment field?
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been in the arts for almost 20 years. Sally and I met when he was a performer and I was working on the Lake of Stars Festival 2005. He was the only musician who called after the festival to say thank you and that he got home safely, so I figured he was either really well mannered or totally into me. We dated briefly, fell in love quickly, moved in together for five years, adopted a child and now we are married, so we are Ã¢â‚¬ËœlegitimateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ in conservative society.
You are also advocating for the association of arts journalists in Malawi. What are your objectives?
AAJN is an Arterial initiative; continentally we felt that the culture sector needed to bring arts journalists into the fold because they are the communicators. Writing and publishing strong positive articles about the arts builds the artists, the industry.
Did you have big dreams as a child?
At age nine, I was a hot-headed socialist and soon I decided to become the first woman secretary general of the United Nations. By 12, I was disillusioned by the UN and I still am. When I became disillusioned with the world, I entered the passionate creative life phase and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m still in it.
How did your parents and people around you mould you into what you are today?
My parents are both passionate about people. After the university years, my father joined the United Nations. I grew up looking at the world through statistics and annual reports. He always explained things clearly and I learned that life is very hard, but that we have choices; therefore, we must make informed choices and be responsible for our actions. For example, I saw so many teenage girls get pregnant, so I avoided doing what makes that happen.
My mother is an advocate for womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rights, she is humble, yet fierce about family and community.
What did your parents do?
My father (Dr Chifipa Gondwe) was a Political Science and Economics lecturer at Chanco before KamuzuÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s government got into the habit of silencing academic freedom by detaining academics. He was detained for almost three years. My mother (Mazoe Gondwe) was a young teacher who found herself and other Northern wives on a truck with small children, a few household goods and the clothes on their backs one night heading for Ã¢â‚¬Ëœkwithu kukayaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.
What memories do you have of growing up?
After my father was released from detention and blacklisted like many others, we left the country so we grew up in Kenya and then Zambia. My father made a huge impression on me as a child because he just kind of arrived as a tall, bearded and gregarious stranger. I was a total daddyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s girl and to impress him I read, as well as I could, all the academic bookshelves in the house. DaddyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s diverse friends would come home for barbecues and politics. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s true that children pick up a lot when you think they are nice, quiet and well behaved.
We had a lot of political exiles in the family so we would have to refer to Kamuzu as Ã¢â‚¬ËœgrandfatherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ even in our house. Attending embassy events was like walking on glass because there were so many spies.
You work for Guardian Newspaper, tells us about your job.
I started out three years ago out as the Arts and Lifestyle editor, then deputy editor. Now, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m interim operations manager and still retain editorial duties. In my interview, I told the boss I would one day have her jobÃ¢â‚¬Â¦here I am!
Any future plans?
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m writing a childrenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s book and working with an illustrator. Publishing books is the next agenda, reclaiming our national passion for reading is a challenge on the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœto-doÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ list. I love cooking; if God favours me in this way, I may yet become a chef. I make a range of gourmet chili sauces called Zillies Chillies, I have a growing clientele and given time, we could blow the roof off the sauce boat.
Could you please tell us of your immediate family?
We have an eight-year-old daughter Temwa Bijou.
What sort of relationship do you have with her?
We are sometimes mother and daughter and sometimes weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re girlfriends. She is my teacher in many ways.
How do you manage to balance family and work?
My husband and I work on each otherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s projects, so we spend a lot of time together. We have a set family time for us as a family with Temwa. My husband and I have a regular date night.
What is your take on key challenges facing Malawian women?
We allow society, even fellow women to deride and demotivate us. Do not allow anyone to erode your self-worth.
This is the African Union decade (2010-2020) for African Women, so the time is now to change the goalposts.
Ã¢â‚¬â€Born at Zomba Central Hospital in October 1974
Ã¢â‚¬â€The firstborn in a family of three (followed by brother and sister Muza)
Ã¢â‚¬â€A Christian believer
Ã¢â‚¬â€Loves listening to Jazz