Good people, a local university finally dominated arts pages for a good reason—thanks to the bestowment of an honorary degree on poet Qabaniso Malewezi by Mzuzu University on Friday.
By conferring the Honoris Causa on the spoken word artist we love to call Q, Mzuni not only broke a new ground in a culture academic awards but also recognised arts as a vital component of our society and humanity.
For a long time, the country’s universities have been behaving like the proverbial ostriches –burying their heads in sand and pretending arts do not exist on earth.
The learned ostriches heads in the grains of misconception seemed to see nothing wrong with confining creative minds to lecture rooms and clubs of theatre maniacs and book worms.
It is like arts don’t matter. They do.
Making arts matter is not only teaching of the multispectral discipline in school
It’s not even restricting it to a few guys striving to pass exams for degrees and diplomas.
It is also about recognising the people who do to the best of human kind’s expectations things universities teach–the doers par excellence often forgotten when it comes to distribution of political honours.
While universities have been snoring on their laurels and being dragged into the misperception of confining its honorary papers on politicians chosen by politicians for politically abstract ends, the degrees from universities to the rest of the society have become petty handouts which bring more questions and ridicule than honour and worthwhile applause.
Actually, universities from questionable backgrounds and authenticity stepped in and hijacked the process to dishonour artists and other achievers who really deserved every bit of the stuff Mzuni offered Q.
Remember India’s University of Jerusalem which once upon a time dished out honourary degrees to veteran musicians, the late Mjura Mkandawire, Soldier Lucius Banda and Wambali Mkandawire.
Remember, the University of Cypress (some call it Cyprus University) which honoured one Ben Phiri in a fashion that made honourary degrees a laughing stock that only the brains behind Malawi Government online pages can endorse.
Remember how Mzuni itself at the apex of one Bakili Muluzi’s rule handed out an honourary degree to Shanil Muluzi for exploits of a charity founded and popularised by Anne Muluzi.
Nearly a decade after the slip of the chancellor’s pen in Muluzi’s story, Q’s newest honour is a story of a credible university conferring status on a deserving achiever.
It is also the icing of the audacity of self-determination that is Dr Q’s moving life story.
Honourary degrees are part of a broader interaction between universities and surrounding publics, which top notch literary scholar Professor David Rubadiri summed up as a “tale of towns and gowns”, and it is pleasing integrity did not die yesterday.
Being the son of a former vice-president Justin Malewezi, Dr Q had every opportunity to achieve a career that poor boys and girls can only dream, but he chose arts–not law, medicine, politics, economics and all those things that seem to matter most.
As a graduate of Sir Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, Q never ceased pursuing his life–begining with making music as a co-founder of the country’s pioneer pop group Real Elements and decisively finding a voice in spoken word performances.
From the widely open gates of music making in Europe, Q has soldiered his own to launch a crowd-pulling career in poetry, a path that keep stunning people in power and in the underclass to stand and bow in his honour.