There is one individual who has found freedom on the creative strata, flexing himself seamlessly and flipping from one fold to the next.
Over the years, media personality Nicolas Mbonera has satisfactorily fitted in the robes of a musician and perfectly rolled into a comic radio cartoon character.
In early 2000s, Mbonera joined forces with his friend Evans Zangazanga alias Piksy to form a musical duet, Atumwi, which for a moment through their Sendeza beat promised to offer a new definition of local urban music.
Despite their early success and promise, the two could not sustain their musical partnership for long and soon announced they were going their separate ways in pursuit of new goals in the field.
While Piksy steadily continued on the musical ladder as a solo artist, Mbonera appeared to have put his musical ambitions on the back-burner. Maybe his next artistic breakthrough was already itching somewhere inside him.
What was to follow was the creation of a radio cartoon, Che-Nkope versus Nancy, which initially only used to air on MIJ Radio programmes he was hosting. Now five years later, the popular cartoon has found a home in many radio stations in the country.
Mbonera says he was lured by real life experiences in coming up with the cartoon which delves into social issues, corruption, love, current affairs, politics and religion.
The cartoon depicts silent love-birds, Mbonera as Che-Nkope and an imaginary character Nancy Maphwanya.
Nancy is an overly possessive and jealousy lover who is prepared for any kind of tactic as long she gets the man she wants.
The idea for the cartoon came in 2013 when Mbonera found himself entangled with a lady who got his number and started making advances on him.
Mbonera says: “I do not know where this lady got my number and the actual episodes I produced were meant to push her away. I used to play it at the end of one of the programmmes I was hosting, Mikoko Yogona. Unfortunately she also became a big fan of the cartoon.”
The 33-year-old has seen the cartoon grow both in circulation and demand over the years. And in 2015 he released the episodes on CD, Che-Nkope vs Nancy Volume 1.
“I am simply trying to advance a mindset change by presenting the everyday issues in a unique and funny way. In trying to reason with the masses, I had to identify the best possible way of engaging them,” he says.
Having registered the cartoon with the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) as a trademark, the work is a source of income. Corporate organisations often engage him to perform during their events.
His former workmate at MIJ Radio, Innocent Mphongolo, who witnessed the genesis of the radio cartoon, says the idea came at a time when Malawians were not used to radio cartoons and he feels nobody till now has come close to what Mbonera has done.
“It was quite a surprise to most of us when we saw him working in the studio. When he played the first episodes we were all impressed.
“The way he weaves current affairs in a satirical way while sending messages across shows he is not an ordinary artist,” he says.
On the back of the success of his cartoon, Mbonera has attracted the attention of an organisation Adecots who with funding from Ministry of Health and support from USAid and Pepfar will be hosting a men’s talk show called Zikutheka.
He will be hosting alongside Edward Kankhomba, Mercy Simbi and the Nancy project will also be featured. The programme will be tackling issues ranging from sports to health and behavior change. n