Jah people, there are two Johnnies that got the nation talking this week.
First was John Chilembwe of the 1915 uprising which shaped the history of the nation. Second was John Kapito who on Thursday was spearheading consumers’ demonstrations against the rising cost of living.
Varied are the views on every Johnny’s heroism, but Chichiri and Mandala museums teach visitors that even government’s halls of history sideline the pride of the nation.
Sure, prophets hardly get recognition at home. But how can a State-funded museum fail to display a single artefact of Chilembwe—the only Malawian with a holiday to his name—when it has on shelf portraits and handwritten writings of Scottish missionary explorer Dr David Livingstone.
While we still debate what being a hero is all about, Chilembwe has missed out on the order of national awards of merit conferred on artists such as national anthem composer Michael Sauka as well as musicians Allan Namoko, Saleta Phiri, Evison Matafale, Ethel Kamwendo-Banda and Wambali Mkandawire.
What happened to Chilembwe’s black-and-white photographs and the revolutionary letter he wrote to The Nyasaland Times criticising ill-treatment of Malawians on White-owned estates and in World War I.
This negation of home-grown heroes goes beyond the museums, for many are times foreign artists have been paid millions to headline events exclusively organised to honour our poor achievers. Before MBC’s Our People Our Pride died, the likes of South Africa’s Black Mambazo and Yvonne Chaka Chaka came and stole the show which was meant to confer status on unsung heroes of the land.
For those looking for lurid stories, the continent is a gift that keeps giving. Just this week, the Confederation of African Football unveiled Sela Sela as a theme song of the Africa Cup of Nation which kicks-off tomorrow in South Africa. As usual, the groovy anthem has a US artist, Zahra Universe, on the lead vocals and Cameroonian Wes Madiko on the backings. This calls to mind Shakira doing Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) for the first World Cup on the African soil.
Zahra told BBC the tune is about “coming together”, but one wonders why no African artist is going to take to the microphone when the world comes together to witness the inauguration of US President Barack Obama on Monday.
As we come together, give the spirit of Africa space.