Story Club FM
14 Jun 2023
In the realm of literature, Malawi boasts a cadre of remarkable yet often overlooked writers who have garnered significant international acclaim. These literary talents from the warm heart of Africa have captivated readers worldwide with their compelling narratives, unique perspectives, and thought-provoking storytelling. Despite their relative obscurity, their contributions to the literary landscape have not gone unnoticed by the discerning eyes of literary enthusiasts. Here, we present six Malawian writers whose words have resonated on a global scale, illuminating the richness of Malawian literature and its place in the world stage.
Daliso Chaponda, the well-known stand-up comedian from Malawi, has a lesser-known talent that many are unaware of—he is also an exceptional writer with an internationally recognized reputation. Born on November 29, 1979, in Zambia and currently residing in England, Daliso gained prominence when he reached the finals of Britain's Got Talent, a popular variety show, in 2017, ultimately finishing in third place. In 2018, he further showcased his versatility by launching a series on BBC Radio 4 titled "Daliso Chaponda: Citizen of Nowhere."
While Daliso is widely recognized for his comedic prowess, his artistry extends beyond the stage. Prior to embarking on his comedy career, he pursued English Literature studies at Concordia University in Canada, honing his skills as a writer.
One of Daliso's notable works is a collection of short stories titled "And Then What Happened?: Short Stories," published on March 29, 2015. Within its pages, readers are transported to a world where butterfly-like aliens visit Earth and demand a game of Bingo, a dictator meets his demise while seated on a toilet, and a young boy wakes up to discover he has wings. The stories within this collection can be enjoyed beside crackling flames, during commutes, moments of procrastination, or while lying in bed. Murder mysteries, love stories, rhyming tales, and narratives featuring characters limited to words beginning with the letter 'S' are just a glimpse of the variety found within. Silly, unsettling, and profound stories coexist side by side, enticing readers to turn each page and ponder, "And then what happened?"
Although Daliso may not actively promote his writing endeavors, it is evident that his talent flows effortlessly in this realm as well. Story Club, and undoubtedly many others, wish him continued success as a writer, comedian, TV presenter, and in all the remarkable talents possessed by this extraordinary individual.
Yanjanani L. Banda, is a talented writer hailing from Malawi. Recently she was announced as one of the recipients of The Literary Laddership for Emerging African Authors 2023. The prestigious fellowship, established by Nigerian fantasy writer and academic Suyi Davies Okungbowa, aims to support and elevate emerging fiction authors of Black and/or African descent on the African continent.
Banda, along with Gabrielle Emem Harry from Calabar, Nigeria, was selected as this year's winners from a pool of 55 applications spanning several African countries, including Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tanzania. The judging panel carefully reviewed the submissions, considering elements such as storytelling, language and structure, style, approach, themes, and genre.
Her works have appeared in the Bristol Short Story Prize’s 15th Anthology of 2022, The Quilled Ink Review, Brittle Paper, Afritondo magazine and many others.
Yanjanani L. Banda's educational background includes completing her A-Levels and a diploma in Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and African Studies at the African Leadership Academy in South Africa. She holds a BA Degree in Study of Women and Gender & Comparative Literature from Smith College in Massachusetts. Banda also pursued a Master's Degree in Political Science and Diplomacy at Pusan National University in South Korea.
Upile Chisala: Upile Chisala is a storyteller from Malawi and a graduate of the University of Oxford. She is known for her short and powerful poems. Chisala recently signed a three-book publishing deal with US based publishing house Andrews McMeel. ‘soft magic’ and ‘nectar’ (2019) and ‘a fire like you’ (2020) are her collections of poetry and prose. She was among the 2019 Forbes Africa’s 30 under 30 list. Chisala been featured in several publications to name a few Okay Africa, Huffington Post, Elle SA, Essence, Glamour and more. She is the founder and facilitator of the poetry mentorship program ‘Khala Series’. She lives in Johannesburg.
Samson Kambalu, a renowned conceptual artist hailing from Malawi and based in the United Kingdom, has captivated the art world with his extraordinary creations. While he has recently gained attention for his larger-than-life sculpture of John Chilembwe, a revered anti-colonial freedom fighter from Malawi, installed in London's historic Trafalgar Square, his talents extend beyond the realm of visual art. The BBC reported that Kambalu's striking five-meter sculpture marked a significant milestone as the first installation representing an African figure in Trafalgar Square.
Yet, little is known about Kambalu's prowess as a novelist. His literary works include two novels: "The Jive Talker" and "Uccello's Vineyard."
Recognized as one of the visionary artists shaping the future, Kambalu has been heralded by The Guardian newspaper for his remarkable contributions to contemporary art. His achievements encompass being featured in Bloomberg New Contemporaries, receiving a Decibel Award, and exhibiting worldwide alongside prominent figures such as Yoko Ono at the Liverpool Biennial and during the FIFA World Cup in Germany in 2006. Currently, Kambalu is enjoying a five-year artist residency supported by the Arts Council England, further fueling his creative endeavors.
"The Jive Talker," one of Kambalu's novels, offers readers an utterly original and at times subversive exploration of his birth country, Malawi. Within its pages, the narrative unveils an impoverished nation where dissent is stifled, political opponents mysteriously vanish, and the ever-watchful gaze of Life President Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda looms. It is also a place where a young boy, enamored with Michael Jackson, Footloose, Nietzsche, girls, fashion, and football, defies societal expectations to ascend as a rising star in international pop culture. Along this transformative journey, he develops an expressive philosophy known as "Holyballism," infusing life with a profound sense of affirmation.
Narrated with flair and charisma, "The Jive Talker" serves as a love letter to an Africa often misunderstood. It stands as a coming-of-age tale that joins the ranks of masterful works by authors such as Tobias Wolff, Mary Karr, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Through this novel, Kambalu unravels the complexities of his homeland, shedding light on its vibrant spirit and uncharted narratives.
As Samson Kambalu continues to leave an indelible mark on the art world with his conceptual brilliance, it is equally exhilarating to explore his literary endeavors. His multifaceted talents, both as an artist and a novelist, invite us to immerse ourselves in the rich tapestry of his imagination, where visual and written expressions intertwine in captivating ways.
Priscilla Takondwa Semphere, born and raised in Malawi, possesses a unique background that has shaped her journey of knowledge and impact. Before attending Smith College, she spent two years at the African Leadership Academy in South Africa, immersing herself in a transformative learning experience. Her exceptional leadership qualities were acknowledged when she became a 2013 Global Teen Leader with Three Dot Dash, a prestigious recognition. Additionally, she pursued her studies as a Spring 2014 scholar at Watson University, further expanding her intellectual horizons.
Notably, Semphere is a talented children's book author, captivating young readers with her celebrated Ekari Series. This series takes readers on enchanting adventures alongside an 8-year-old girl as she embarks on travels across the African continent. Beginning in Semphere's native Malawi, the stories unfold to showcase the richness of diverse African cultures, encompassing delightful encounters with various foods, music, languages, and cultural practices. Through her writing, Semphere effortlessly weaves together education and entertainment, providing readers with an authentic and engaging glimpse into Africa's vibrant tapestry.
Beyond her literary accomplishments, Priscilla is a budding postcolonial theory enthusiast, recognizing the power of leveraging this field of study to foster international connections in the pursuit of social justice. Currently, she is pursuing her studies in the Study of Women & Gender and African Studies, fueling her passion for creating a more equitable and just world. Priscilla finds inspiration and energy when surrounded by individuals who wholeheartedly embrace their authentic selves and actively strive to positively impact the world around them, promoting equity, justice, and love.
Priscilla Takondwa Semphere's journey is a testament to the transformative power of education, storytelling, and advocacy. Her unwavering commitment to amplifying diverse voices, fostering intercultural understanding, and promoting social justice through her writing and studies marks her as an inspiring young talent, poised to make a lasting impact on a global scale.
Andrew C. Dakalira’s stories have been published in several international anthologies as well as online platforms such as Brittle Paper and The Kalahari Review. His debut novella, ‘VIII,’ appears in AfroSFv2, a collection of five science fiction novellas by African authors. Andrew won the 2014 Dede Kamkondo Short Story Contest and third prize in the 2018 Africa Book Club Short Story Competition. His story, ‘The (Un)lucky Ones,’ was shortlisted for the 2017 Writivism Prize for Short Fiction.