Malawi does not have a lot of Tumbuka literature. Few that are there include the Tumbuka Bible. A few writers from the Northern Region have attempted to beef up the literature in Tumbuka.
The shortage of Tumbuka literature motivated one multi-talented artist Taonga Taddja Nkhonjera to write a book which is a recollection of life of youths growing up in the rural parts of the Northern Region.
Titled Mphuvya za mu Mphara, the book, in Tumbuka with an English translation, centres on Nyuma, a character who either truly lived the experience or knows someone who has had an encounter with what is being narrated.
Nkhonjera says the books seeks to document some vital information about growing up in some parts of the country.
“Mphuvya za mu Mphara is the subtitle that can be loosely translated to the shenanigans of boys’ sleeping quarters in the village. I am a humourist by nature, and Nyuma’s excursions of life always seem to come off funny. So, the book is an exposition of Tumbuka humour. The dialogues are unadulterated,” he said.
Nkhonjera said the original stories were written in Tumbuka, but after consultation with his business partner, Zdenek Janaček.
“He insisted that it was pointless to write a book for a small population of people. So, I sat back and wrote the full English translations. Now the book has both versions,” said the writer in an interview.
Nkhonjera, who is also a well known actor, said the book also adds to the collection of writings done in Tumbuka.
“I have always told Nyuma stories. They ended up in a compilation, primarily because I felt that young people who speak and read Tumbuka don’t actually have literature that they can read and enjoy; that reflects them, mirrors their exact life experiences,” he said.
Nkhonjera said since there is already a Bible in Tumbuka and a few novels from Tito Banda, Levi Zeleza Manda Prof Felix Mnthali, he wanted to add to this literature through stories of a young man.
He said: “However, as a dynamic language, Tumbuka is evolving alot. And there is a loss of words and nomenclature due to changing of times. I wanted Nyuma to be a form of preserving modern knowledge, preserving some elements of a rapidly fading culture and a transfer of all that knowledge through an Indigenous medium-Tumbuka language.
He said the foresightedness of his business partner shows itself in the sense that with the English translation, Nyuma is now also an educative book.
Said Nkhonjera: “I also want to establish a Nyuma series. I want a sustained reading of the Tumbuka language by young Tumbuka speakers. I want to champion reading in our indigenous languages. I learned ChiTumbuka as a second language, actually, after English.”
The book takes many people, especially from the north, down a memory lane as it reminds them of life in the Mphara.
“All of Nyuma’s stories happened, at some point in life, all, except Nyoko ni Nyoko. Nyoko ni Nyoko is a story in the book that was fictionalised and adapted to a screenplay for a film which we are working to produce.
“However, all of Nyuma’s stories happened to someone, be it Nyuma, or to someone while Nyuma was around,” he explained.
Currently, the book is available on Amazon where, according to Nkhonjera, the response has been lukewarm but still encouraging.
Said Nkhonjera: “The response has been slow. We are not yet at par with other readers when it comes to ebooks in Malawi. So, the plan has been to market to our international networks first. I have quite a steady network internationally and at home. Those that have bought the book and read are giving the most satisfying feedback a writer can get. One said, the Tumbuka is deep but I had so much fun reading it.”
He said currently there were no paperbacks.
“We will attract partners in publication of hard copies through the traction we are gaining on Amazon. It was a fun book to write so it will definitely be a fun book to read. If you are a fan of e-books, get a copy at $9,” said Nkhonjera.
One of the people that have read the book, Ashukile Mwakisulu says Mphuvya za mu Mphara is a great publication, full of humor and adventure.
He said: “What I like most is the way a character named Nyuma takes us along. Most of us who grew up in the 90s can relate to Nyuma, especially if you grew up in the townships. Characters like him were everywhere.”