Travelling from Thyolo Boma to Khonjeni one may be tempted to think that the area is far removed from today’s world of entertainment.
It is located about 26-kilometres away from Thyolo Boma and is connected to the council offices by a long dusty road that cuts through tea and macadamia estates and bluegum forests.
A visit to the area on a Wednesday or Saturday, the market days at Makoka, one may be surprised with the sight of how rural masses including women throng to video shows. During our visit to the market recently, we established that video shows enjoy huge patronage because it is the only form of entertainment that is available every time. Other forms such as drama take place once in a while as they are dependent of other events.
So too are music shows. In random interviews, most people said they patronise music shows on Independence Day and during the festive season when the public is celebrating the birth of Jesus and the beginning of New Year.
The community said there are some DJs who organise shows at selected halls and patrons pay between K200 and K500, but it is once in a while.
This makes video shows more favourable as they are available everyday and at a cheap cost of K50 per session. They open at 8am and closes at 10pm.
Apart from high patronage, the Khonjeni community is moving with time. They are watching movies that most of the people in the entertainment world are enjoying.
Dickson Tebulo, one of the proprietors of the video showrooms at Makoka Trading Centre, says there are four video show rooms and two others at the nearby Mitengo Trading Centre. He says this creates tight competition.
He claims, he is one of the successful, but says his strength is in identifying films that people love.
“If you want to make money, then get Nollywood movies. You also need to be careful in the choices because people love romantic stories and not action movies. There was a time when Nollywood films about witchcraft were highly prioritised, but now it is romance. I still have some Nollywood films produced 10 years ago, but because they are romantic, people still ask for them. An example is My Love, which features Ramsey Noah,” explains Tebulo, who has been in the business for 11 years.
He recalls that around 2005, action movies such as those by Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Sylvester Stallone and Jean Claude van Dame used to attract huge patronage. Not anymore.
Tebulo challenges that although they charge a meagre fee per movie, the business is still viable. On market days, he makes between K2 000 and K4 000 while he makes K1000 on other days.
During our visit to his show rooms, we found 18 people in the room. Nine were females and these included parents and children. The larger population of males were youths aged between eight and 20.
One of the women said: “After farming and other house chores, I need to refresh my brain and video shows are a better place to be. I come here only in the afternoon. I pick my children because they also want entertainment, but there is also an advantage because it helps me control what they watch rather than if they come alone.”
While most video show rooms are well built houses or halls in other places, most of the show rooms in Khonjeni are constructed using sacks or grasses. The roof is made of plastics with some grasses resting on it. Other halls do not even have a plastic chair and, according to the proprietors, they close shop when it rains. Tebulo says the plan is to construct a modern structure in future.
While those based in towns, district council headquarters, towns and other places prefer watching films on big television screen, in Khonjeni any type of TV set is welcome. You can hardly find plasma sets, but those with long tubes behind. Tebulo and two others have 14-inches TV sets connected to sub-woofers.
There is different style on how decisions are made on which movie to play. You can hardly find posters outside the hall as it happens anywhere. Tebulo says, before he plays a film, he asks people to choose one from a given list.
“The objective is to make money and so, we do not just show a movie that pleases a few,” said the business-minded young man.
Due to high illiterate levels, Tebulo says patrons love Chichewa translated movies.
When asked if he checks the quality of the translated material to avoid misleading information, the 24-year-old said pictures are more powerful than the word.
Tebulo says there are good movies at Thyolo Boma, but the distance is a let down. He says they do not buy video discs, but borrow from video libraries at Luchenza Trading Centre, located 16 kilometres away.