Comics legend (1957-2007)
Seven years ago, Malawi lost one of its vibrant and extraordinaire cartoonists, Vic Kasinja. The comics legend died at City Centre Clinic in Lilongwe in January 2007 and was laid to rest at Misesa Cemetery in Blantyre. In this article, MERCY MALIKWA explores why Kasinja is an artist worth celebrating.
The name Vic Kasinja is not a new name in as far as arts is concerned and those who have been reading newspapers for the last three decades will always remember him for the cartoons that used to appear in the newspapers.
As a graphic designer, Kasinja was discovered in 1981 by Blantyre Newspapers Limited, publishers of The Daily Times and Malawi News, and the latter began running the Joza strips soon after.
In 1997, upon a request from the then Daily Times editor, Kasinja created the feature Taxina, whose name-as-title lead was a provocatively dressed woman with a highly sexual public persona.
Kasinja was a talent who always understood his fans and he was sensitive to changes in society and managed to keep his followers fascinated in Joza and Taxina throughout their running in the two publications.
The cartoonist kept his followers educated, entertained and informed with the cartoons that even those that did not know him personally were sure of one thing, that he was greatly talented and enjoyed his work as an artist.
As one of the most amazing cartoonists that Malawian has ever had, Kasinja used his work to confront social issues of HIV and Aids, prostitution, abuse and infidelity and one needed not to be a connoisseur to admire and enjoy the beauty in his art.
With 25 years of Joza and a decade with Taxina cartoons under his wraps, Kasinja was able to promote behavioural change among young people and Taxina always had a great sense of humour that brought fame to Blantyre’s red light Hannover Street.
Being an indigenous cartoon, Joza managed to appeal to the locals as well as visitors to Malawi through its regular appearance in Malawi News.
And because of its overwhelming appeal, it was appropriate to collect several strips and compile a book.
Walking through a journey to rise to the top of his career, Kasinja published the first Joza book in 1987 under the direction of the United Nations and it was a huge success according to the sales.
It sold out and there was a huge success and the-re was need to reprint it.
But due to ‘bureaucratic red tape’ the idea was overlooked but Kasinja focused his attention on publishing a completely new book, the book that was meant to preserve Joza’s legacy, a book worth having as it is a compilation of classic strips spanning over one and half decades!
The book gives one the opportunity to go down memory lane and come back to the ever-changing present that is today.
At the time of his death, Kasinja had plans to produce a short Taxina or Joza movie, like the famous Tom and Jerry animation, but it was a challenge to him as he had nobody to assist him with the artwork since most of the artists in Malawi were busy generating something a little for their bread and butter and it was difficult to convince any of them.
Kondwani Chisasa, a nephew to the fallen artist who was also depicted in Kasinja’s Joza cartoons as the character Koko, describes his uncle as a down-to-earth person who liked to draw, draw and draw.
He said Kasinja was always putting his ideas to paper through drawing.
Chisasa said apart from spending most of his time drawing, his uncle liked to listen to Michael Jackson’s music and as an artist, he loved and appreciated the King of Pop very much.
“No one could dare to talk bad about Michael Jackson when he was around. He loved listening to his music very much and was not taking any criticism on Michael Jackson’s work easily,” said Chisasa.
At the time of his death, Kasinja was survived by two daughters who, according to Chisasa, are all grown now and one of them has got children of her own.