The danger of being a legend’s son or daughter is that society will always hold you against your parent’s reputation, believing, as it were, that the fruit does not fall far from the tree. More especially if your father is Brite Nkhata, one of the finest musicians ever to have walked on Malawian soil. But Agness Nkhata believes destiny drives people towards different passions, even with your father’s shadow looming over you. Although she has not ventured into a full-time music career like her famous father, Agness is a professional DJ and MC based in Texas, USA, a platform she uses to better the lives of her parent’s people. Over the past five years, Agness has been raising funds to support an orphanage and nursery school at Embangweni in Mzimba. She talked to JACK MCBRAMS about the project and the pressure of being her father’s daughter.
Q: Can you give a brief about this project?
A: The Timalechi Nursery School of Embangweni was founded by my grandfather, Timalechi Zimba in 1997. His goal was to help the needy and see every child in Embangweni getting an early headstart on their education. I adopted the school in 2013 after visiting home for the first time after a 10 year stay in America. Currently we have partnered with The Change Agent Network, B.R.U.S.E. Mission and Steps Toward Awareness Organisation to fight poverty through education.
Q: What inspired the project?
A: I was personally inspired by my Aunt Mary who also lives in USA. Growing up I heard her mention the project, she helped to build the two school blocks. In 2013 I prayed for a purpose in my life, I asked God to use me. When I arrived in Embangweni that same year and saw the school needed much assistance, I saw it as a divine calling. Also my grandfather’s life story inspires the project greatly, he left a very prominent job with the Malawi Government to care for his ailing mother in Embangweni. This was in 1981 and he has never left Embangweni since that time. He has spent these years developing the area through business and projects such as Gogo Timalechi Grocery and, most recently Timalechi Nursery School. He lives the words ‘never forget where you come from’ and I strive to do the same.
Q: What is the vision and mission? What do you intend to achieve?
A: The mission is to fight poverty through education. The vision is to see every child in Embangweni and surrounding areas in school. We intend to open a primary school to ensure our students continue their education. We want to be a shining example for the whole continent of Africa which shows the importance of investing in the youth and prioritising education as a means of development and progress.
Q: How many people have you reached thus far?
A: Since the opening of the school we have educated over 2 000 children. We also have a youth group called Timalechi Get Wise established in 2012 which has serviced 150 youth in Embangweni and surrounding areas. The youth who chose to join this group have made a commitment to take a stand on some of the issues affecting the development of our community and share ideas of success each week. The founder of this youth group, John Moyo, aims to keep the many youth in the area from falling into the trap of drug and alcoholism.
Q: How have you harnessed being an artist towards this project?
A: I believe it was Bob Marley who spoke about the responsibility of an artist. To be a voice for the people. I have used my status as a premier African female DJ to organise fundraising parties for the Timalechi Nursery School. There are musical as well as visual artists in my residing city of Dallas, Texas who have been inspired to share their talent in the name of this project. This project has attracted international recording artist even from America to the Caribbean Islands such as Isis Kema, Sing Kumba, Fyah Star, Baba Amin and Anthony Jade. The number one reggae club in Dallas, Texas called Heroes Lounge has opened its doors since 2013 as a fundraising venue for Timalechi School.
Q: How has being Brite Nkhata’s daughter helped you in this project?
A: Honestly, being Brite Nkhata’s daughter has not won me any favours in this project thus far. Although, his inspiration plays a prominent role in the way I combine my artistry and community work. This month while visiting his home village in Kasungu I heard countless stories from his best mate, Davis Levie Chikoti, of how my father gave so much to people in need. He even gave free access to his shows for young artists whom he believed in. My father also had a passion for the youth.
Q: Is this part of the initiative to keep your father’s legacy alive?
A: Absolutely! As his only child I strive to keep the positive legacy of Brite ‘Live Wire’ Nkhata alive. He is a legend in his own right, for his amazing talent which came from deep in his heart. I still dream of a huge tribute show in honour of his legacy, as I said before, this show will be a charity benefit for the Timalechi Nursery School. I know he would approve. If anyone reading this interview is interested in helping to make this dream come true, feel free to contact me.
Q: Coming from the USA and straight into the village, what has this experience taught you?
A: The experience is always humbling and fruitful. At first it was a big adjustment, but now I feel at home. The strength of the women in the village is so inspiring. I see it as a rites of passage. Coming from a long stay in USA, the elder women like to challenge me in many ways. They will put a huge pot of nsima in front of me and walk away. I try to learn and experience as much as I can from cooking on the fire to drawing water and carrying it on my head. My family is always surprised about how much time I spend in the village when I come to Malawi, but the truth is, it gives me a sense of pride, family and community. n