He has had his feet in the arts for a while only that few know him.
His humble beginnings date back to 1998 when, after finishing secondary education at Henry Henderson Institute (HHI) Secondary School in Blantyre, Maliko Chikaonga started to work in various entertainment joints as a bar tender to eke out a living.
Chikaonga dumped the pub job and went on to be Joseph Nkasa’s bodyguard. At the time, nkasa was at the peak of his career.
His association with musicians opened a window of opportunity and he was featured in several music videos, including the late Vic Marley’s Traffic Police.
Clubs in Blantyre fell in love with his physique, so much that the 37-year-old helped to maintain security at most entertainment venues in the city.
“I have worked in almost all clubs in Blantyre. I have worked at Cactus Bar, Doogles Lodge, Tascas, Blue Elephant, LA Dolce Vita, just to name a few,” he says.
“The exposure enabled me to get hired as a bodyguard for the first Big Brother television show,” he said in an interview from Cape Town where he is now based.
That is not all. Chikaonga has had a stint with Mr Entertainers Promotion owner, Jai Banda, who he says, used to take him to work as his bodyguard and his band, Uhuru.
“He actually gave me a nickname Heavy D because I was huge and very strong,” he recalls.
In search of greener pastures, the Bilila-born, bouncer, left for South Africa in 2007, where life was harder than he had presumed.
But his perseverance paid off in 2010 when he met his current fiancée who introduced him to a life—changing opportunity in circus performing.
“I met my English girlfriend Nichola Jane Slaverse who started a circus in South Africa having been performing in Europe. When she told me about it, I was very excited to join her. She saw the potential in me because I used to lift weights and she said I am strong and there is a spot for me in the circus.
“She trained me in so many aspects of circus performing like the aerial silks, [a long silk fabric that we attach on the roof and do some tricks in the air], even to throw her in the air and catch her, that’s what we call strength Adagio. We started performing in different events in Cape Town and people enjoyed it,” said Chikaonga.
He says when Slaverse first arrived in the Rainbow Nation, she opened the South Africa National Circus, but now she runs her own aerial fitness company named The Silk Workshop, where she trains people in aerial fitness, an art that started in America where long silk fabric is attached to the ceiling and people drop through it.
So, for three years after Chikaonga started living a life through aerial silks, strength adagio, fire breathing and other antics to entertain circus goers in South Africa, he is now a master of several arts.
Out of passion, he slowly started designing outfits such that now he owns a T-Shirt label My Malawi Africa.
Chikaonga also designs and hand-makes leather goods like shoulder bags, wallets, purses, pouches for tablets and phones and laptop bags, among others.
“I started designing in 2013 and it started like just playing with leather off cuts. At the beginning I was just making phone pouches and then I extended it to bags, from that I was just going on and on. Having played with leather, just a month ago, I started to hand paint my t-shirts which people seemto like.
“All my designs have the African concept and twist of course. For example, I use African mountains, colours, prints, maps and people’s images just to name a few. I also attach Malawi to some of my designs such that they are either in our official colours, black, red, green or there is a Malawi map embedded to the design,” he explained.
He boasts a wide range of the hand-made products that attract the eyes of those who love custom made products.
“I own Maliko Leather Goods, a small firm that handcrafts genuine leather goods. I design and hand stitch the products myself. Our specialties are men’s and ladies wallets, unisex purses, hand bags, shoulder bags, laptop bags, pouches, satchels, shoes and boots, pants, waistcoats, jackets, caps, sneakers, hats, just to mention a few. All these products are 100 percent handcrafted and the material is 100 percent genuine leather,” he stated.
While the artist has immediate plans to open a shop in South Africa, he says he is dreaming big-to open a factory.
“I sell all my products on my own by going around to the markets. I also supply my merchandise through social media networks such as Facebook. He says competition, however, is stiff. His cheapest bag fetches R350 (about K16 800).
But is there any link between circus performing and fashion?
“Yes,” he vehemently affirms, “circus and fashion are all arts. Circus needs costumes, that’s where we need fashion designers to sort that. I am just enjoying the best of both worlds by doing everything on my own which also benefits others; through my performances and buying of my design,” he added. n