Usually, Malawi tends to honour distinguished individuals posthumously. But Mzuzu University (Mzuni) has refused to follow the pattern by recognising artists and trainers while they are still alive.
On Friday night, the university through its English Department honoured one of its longest serving professor of theatre Muzipasi Shumba for his remarkable contribution in theatre development.
Shumba, who retired in 2014 after serving the university for 15 years, is remembered for including drama courses in the curriculum of the university and promoting drama practice through Mzuzu University Theatre Arts Group (Mutag) which he founded.
Mupa, as he is widely known, achieved this when he was appointed head of English Department soon after he was employed in January 1999.
The 76-year-old professor was honoured with music and theatre performances as well as a certificate of recognition presented to him by Mzuni vice-chancellor Robert Ridley.
The recognition comes months after the university honoured poet Q Malewezi with a doctorate in creative writing for his outstanding contributions in the arts sector.
Ridley said the legacy Shumba has left behind at the university needed to be recognised while the owner was still alive.
“Professor Shumba started programmes from the scratch and he put a great deal of effort in the development of theatre where a lot of students have gone through him. Such efforts cannot just go without recognition. His legacy will live forever,” he said.
Shumba expressed gratitude with the honour, saying: “The recognition means that my efforts have borne fruits”.
He said with the theatre performances he witnessed, Mutag is on its way up and “surely some of the members will make it as professional actors”.
Mupa was born on May 5 1940 at Euyangeni Village in Mzimba. He went to Dedza Secondary School in 1962, and thereafter proceeded to Makerere University in Uganda for his first degree.
He studied for a Master of Arts Degree in Dramatic Literature at University of Edmouton in the province of Alberta, Canada, but concentrated on research at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom where he graduated with a distinction in his master of philosophy programme.
Apart from Mzuni, Shumba has been with Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, where he was instrumental in setting up a cultural week which was very successful in 1983 and 1984.
During this week, dances, music and drama were performed by artists from within and outside university. Chanco also remembers him for his promotion of theatre as he taught available drama courses and led a theatre group. n