Flora Suya is probably Malawi’s leading female film actor at the moment. Apart from acting for the screen, Suya also acts in stage and radio drama and her acting prowess on different platforms continues to capture imaginations. In this interview with MERCY MALIKWA, Suya explains how she started her acting journey, her experiences—both good and bad—and her aspirations.
Tell me about yourself?
I am Flora Suya. I was born in 1987 at Mlambe Mission Hospital in Blantyre. I am the 12th born in a family of 15. Three of my siblings passed away. I come from Balaka District and I am a Roman Catholic devout.
What is your education background?
I attended my primary school at Likhubula Primary School from where I went to Zingwangwa Secondary School where I did my junior secondary education. I completed my secondary school at Bennin Girl’s Secondary School in Njuli, Chiradzulu. Currently, I am pursuing a degree course in journalism at the Polytechnic.
How was your upbringing?
I was raised by both parents, but I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. My early days on earth were not rosy. My mother was just a housewife and it was only my father who was working for Blantyre Newspapers Limited (BNL), now Times Group, and it was not easy to provide for the 15 of us. I remember going to school bare-foot.
What is the story about your acting career?
I started acting at a tender age of 10, when I was still in primary school. However, I started earning money through acting in 2002. In 2005, I joined Wakhumbata Ensemble Theatre and in 2006 I made my first movie appearance when I featured in Shemu Joya’s Seasons of a Life. In 2011 I featured in The Last Fishing Boat, Joya’s second movie, and in 2014 I featured in Chenda, a Zambian movie. This year (2015) I have featured in two of my own movies, a short film titled Chimwemwe and a feature film titled A Mother’s Story. I have done stage performances with Nanzikambe Arts, Lions Theatre, Wakhumbata Ensemble Theatre and Emancipation Theatrical Ensemble. I also do radio drama, specifically theatre of the air, stories in action, Pakachere and Tikwere.
Who inspired you into acting?
(Laughs) I don’t really know. When I first acted in school, it felt so good and so right. It was fun. Every time I listened to Pamajiga radio drama, I envied Nanyoni. I wanted to be like her. I did not know that radio drama is completely different from stage acting. I remember one day I told my father that I would be a star—an actor—when I grow up. He just laughed, but I never stopped dreaming about it. Then one day he was shocked to hear a recording of myself on tape when he was trying to play one of his many Lucius Banda collections on our small radio.
So, how would you describe your acting journey?
Exciting and fun! Lots of fun! The fact that I can be anything and anybody excites me a lot. In acting, I can be the first lady, I can be the president, I can be the doctor, I can be the lawyer. I can be practically anybody. The fact that I can be in my own world and make people watch me, listen to me and believe in my world and enjoy the journey with me, is the most wonderful experience.
You are Malawi’s leading female act in the film industry at the moment, who do you owe your success to?
I owe it to God for my talent. I also appreciate what Khumbo Bazuka Mhango has done in my life. He made me believe in myself. He made me see the real star in me. He once told me that even the sky should not be the limit for me and every time I am acting and it gets difficult, I always hear his voice telling me that I can do it because I was born to act.
Has your fame affected any of your friendships and relationships?
(Laughs). My fame has not affected any of my friendships and relationships. The thing about me is that my status is the only thing that has changed but I have not changed personally. I am still my friends’ friend and nothing can change that.
My friends and family don’t know me as a famous person; they know me as one of them and they treat me as such. You know how some Malawians are jealous and I know some people who are not happy with what I have achieved so far, but that does not bother me because they do not qualify to be called my friends. My friends and family love me, support me and celebrate my achievements with me.
What is the hardest role you have played in the career?
The role of the narrator and Mbona’s mother in The Messenger, a stage play by Nanzikambe Arts. I, actually, played almost four roles in one play. We performed it here and in Germany. In Germany, we rehearsed for a week before the performances. I remember rehearsing and the director telling me that I needed to add energy. I tried and tried but the director pushed and pushed.
He wanted more energy. I wanted to scream and tell him to find another person to do it! I excused myself, went to the loo and cried. I cried for almost 10 minutes, then I looked myself in the mirror and said: ‘Don’t be stupid Flora, you can do this’. I went back and I did it and I could not stop smiling when the director clapped for me!
What about the role that you enjoyed most?
I enjoyed playing Abiti Anefa in The Last Fishing Boat. She was so pure, vulnerable and innocent, and yet strong.
Seasons of A Life was your first movie appearance, how can you describe it?
Challenging, but exciting. Coming from the stage drama background, it was not easy to adapt to camera. It took us six months for rehearsals.
Any bigger plans?
I want to own a big film company and do collaborations with other countries and, of course, Hollywood.
What was your saddest moment in life?
I cannot remember any saddest moment in my life. I know it sounds weird, but generally, I am a happy person all the time. I always count my blessings and I look at life at as a precious gift, so I thank God and enjoy each and every day that God blesses me with. When I face situations that can make me sad, I always tell myself that it is not worth it. God loves me and I am alive, and that is what matters.
What was your happiest moment in life?
My happiest moment remains May 30 2009, when I gave birth to my baby boy, Joyful.
What do you like doing when you are not acting or shooting a movie?
I love watching movies, hanging out with friends and spending time with my family.
Your closing words Flora?
I would like to thank all my fans for their support, love and words of encouragement. I also thank my friends and family for their unconditional love and support. They give me strength and courage to forge ahead. I also thank God for one of my best friends Tapiwa Sylvia Gwaza. I always thank God that our paths crossed in 2007, her advice and love has helped build me over the years. To my dad, mom and sisters, I love you. To Khumbo Bazuka Mhango, thank you for the role you played in my life, for giving me a platform to showcase my talent in 2005. The journey continues…