Fellow Malawians, it is that time again when no amount of tears can adequately express the grief of shedding another creative soul to the grave.
What a loss the death of veteran writer Tito Banda on Tuesday is to the country’s literary industry.
Of course, good ole Tito is not worth of praise because he is dead and buried nor because of his unsung greatness which has shaped a great many of my kind–journalists.
First and foremost, he was the Malawian writer extraordinaire.
The first time I met him, Malawi Writers Union had just published his third novel, The Luck Charm, and he wanted an honest review.
Having written an article about the latest feat in his long literary journey, I was to endure relentless reminders about the review.
“I want a critical analysis of the book,” said good ole Tito when the review was past the book’s sell-by date.
It is this unrivaled humility, professionalism and accountability that could have forced even the hardest hearted reviewer to do the needful which forced me into reading sessions that brought me face-to-face with the immensity of Tito’s talent times without number.
Flipping the 165-page The Luck Charm is not only an encounter with an author with a commendable and clinical command of English, but a rare zeal to keep every sentence simple, straightforward and concise.
This is the spectacular thread and thrust of identity that unites all his books from Sekani’s Solution and A Bitter Disapproval which are out of print to Old Nyaviyuyi in Performance, an academic work on oral literature.
This is the discipline he always bestowed on his students both at his Penpoint School of Journalism and Mzuzu University’s Literature and Creative Writing labs where he was a top-notch lecturer.
At a glance, The Luck Charm reads like a striking example of a gifted writer high on a stale subject–witchcraft–and weirdly too shy to spearhead fresh themes that matter to the majority of his readers.
But this was Tito–just one of the culture warriors who take pride in delving backwards to the world of gogo Nyaviyuyi to give this highly westernised generation of ours a glimpse of the richness of folk role and Malawian oral literature being buried by stacks of euro-centric literature and teaching schemes. Ngugi wa Thiong’o calls it decolonising the mind.
It is this great Tito, the disciplined writer, that Malawians will miss. May his soul rest in peace.