Poet Benedicto Wokomaatani Malunga is, without doubt, the symbol of Chichewa poetry. His signature, Ndidzakitengera kunyanja Ligineti, remains one of the adorable poems from these soils.
It has been a while since he released his poems. The last time he did so was in 2016, when he released Siananso Awa.
Now, the poet is set to release another collection, Ulaliki wa Moto.
The poetry in the new offering is laden with diverse issues. Take, for instance, Khrismasi Yopanda Inu, one of the poems in the 29 cut-collection. It brings to the fore the sad reality of death.
In the poem, Malunga remembers his father, who died in 2002.
In an interview, the poet said the death blew him. “If I could die and resurrect, I would still choose my father. When he passed away, I thought I would forget him. But memories keep on coming, especially those special moments shared,” he added.
Death reappears in another poem, where he creatively presents death from the eyes of an employee who was so loved by his workmates.
Malunga has been known, at times, for speaking for women. Previously, he had Misozi ya Chumba (lamentations of the barren).
In the upcoming album, he does not forget the fairer sex.
“Women are tough. They wake up early in the morning to go and draw water. From there, they go up the hill to fetch firewood. Then, they would be back to cook, and wash clothes.
“Their voices are never heard. I speak for them in poetry,” he says.
During a recent poetry recital in Blantyre, Malunga gave patrons a foretaste of some of the poems, including one on the Covid-19 pandemic.
He described the collection as a mixed bag, with ‘seriousness entangled with moments of lighthearted essence’.
He does not forget his signature love theme “Love pulls surprises. It is a blissful feeling that takes us to another level when a relationship is working. Yet, when it turns sour, you are frustrated,” he says.
Malunga, who is University of Malawi registrar and also a renowned short story writer, explains his silence is the result of his doctoral studies. Now he is set for the virtual launch next month for the album which was produced by Felix Kachopwa under the Tiakalulu Productions.
For him, Chichewa poetry must grow to higher heights. And, he still has lines and verses to dish out.
He says: “It is in Chichewa that I feel our cultural issues can best be tackled. People have wondered why I use Chichewa yet I majored in English and history.”
He adds, using Chichewa is his way of decolonising the mind, as propelled by Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
Like an elephant in an ancestral savanna, Malagasy advises up and coming poets to learn from the masters, read a lot and find their unique voice.
Malunga, a father of two, was born in 1962. Apart from vernacular poems, he translated Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (Chipasupasu). Has also feature in various songs.
In a separate interview Winehouse publicist Emmanuel Maliro hailed Malunga for his outstanding performance.
“At Winehouse, we want to give patrons rare afternoons. There will be surprises here every weekend,” he said.