Gladly, this gave me wonderful feedback. I had ZNBC broadcaster Misheck Moyo, Leonard Koloko a writer, Charles Lwando, Pack Phiri and Windu Matoka and many others writing in to pay their glowing appreciation of the write-up about this dramatist.
I want to put all their contributions, remarks and comments aside for this week until later so I can still get down memory lane again and look at yet another yesteryear theatre artist Bright Banda, who presently resides in Lusaka, and currently is the vice-chairperson of the National Arts Council (NAC) having taken over from Michael Kambole in 2014 at an extraordinary NAC board meeting.
Bright Banda is generally the little known hero even when his history speaks volumes; he is a wonderful actor, a conscious producer, realistic writer and renowned brave director.
He started directing at a tender age, and has resultantly won more accolades in that area.
Like Graig Lungu, Bright, offstage, is a quiet and cool character who hails from parents of Eastern Province, the late Saopa Lipilani and Dailess Banda.
Born in 1963 at D4 Clinic in Wusikile Township, Kitwe, Banda went to Ndeke Primary and Ndeke Secondary schools until 1981 when he completed Form 5.
While in secondary school, he got enmeshed in drama though his fancy was football as he played for Young Power Dynamos and later City Cabs, another nursery team for the City of Kitwe football club.
At Ndeke Secondary Bright met the likes of Alfred Mwakelema, John Sapao, Jayne Kumwembe, Bernard Mwa, Graig Lungu, Francis (Franco) Kapambwe, Denis Kapembwa, Kingsley Sinkala and Rapson Mutale Mulenga – staging some of the big plays like John Sapao’s ‘Man is for Death and Justice’.
Countrywide, there was this community theatre ‘frenzy’ which saw the formation of Kalukungu Theatre at Kalukungu Community Centre in Chamboli influenced by what was happening in Lusaka with the formation of the likes of Tikwiza Theatre and Tinabadwa Theatre.
On the Copperbelt there was Tithandize, Africanist Dramatist Society led by the duo Chibale Kalaba and Mambwe Mulenga, Zaninge, Nsanje, Tione, Lido Lenient and Bwananyina Theatre in Kitwe.
In Mufulira, there was Mabvuto and Kamuchanga Dramatic Society while in Ndola there were the likes of YMCA and Tapeza. Mwinko waitumpa mu fya kaba theatre was based in Luanshya.
I want to believe the formation of Kalukungu was the biggest breakthrough influenced by Fred Mwachande. Apparently he had a brother called Adam Mwachande, a very talented actor who later moved to Mufulira and spearheaded groups in the border town.
One of the main silent goals of this community theatre frenzy was to bring together the young drama talent that was spread across different schools.
For Bright memorable names; Lloyd Chisenga, Nelson Chirwa, Lungu, Denis Kapembwa, Joyce Makungu, Francis (Franco) Kapambwe, Kingsley Sinkala and Alfred Mwakelema, the author of the famed Chibanda which became the flagship of Kalukungu Theatre were brought together.
Bright Banda’s theatrical life cannot be separated from Tithandize and ZANASE.
At Tithandize he clearly recalls Graig Lungu and the plays they did all written by Graig; Den of Torment, Woman is Queen and its sequel Is Woman really Queen?
Others were Love enchained, Ring of fire, Song of the Shanties, A second before the storm, Forsaken, Juma Donke, School leavers note book, Welcome to Babylon, and A knock for the President.
Bright recalls: “One of my turning points and that of Tithandize was in 1979 when the club became part of the theatre entertainment for delegates who attended the Commonwealth Conference hosted by Zambia in Lusaka, and graced by Queen Elizabeth II.
At age 18 in 1981 Bright became director of Tithandize Theatre Club and went ahead to work on Edufa, Juma Donke and Forsaken fairing very well at ZANTAA festivals.
While directing Tithandize, a role he challengingly took, and the re-emerging of Graig Lungu, Franco Kapambwe and Kingsley Sinkala from the national service, the group became stronger and participated in the British-adjudicated Theatre Association of Zambia (TAZ) in the junior category.
With Love Enchained Michael Smee was impressed and the play won best production, with Graig Lungu getting best actor and his play as the best original script. Maggie Malumba went in for the finals, finally won by Caroline Zulu from Fatima Girls Secondary as the best actress.
In 1983 Bright became part of Tithandize’s transformation into a professional group called Tithandidze Travelling Company (TITRACO) comprising Graig Lungu, Elijah Daka, Maidstone Mulenga, Maggie Malumba, Maximus Mutale and Jayne Kumwembe.
However, this did not sit well with the Kitwe City Council who earlier sponsored Tithandize! On the other hand TITRACO had inspirations from the late Francisco Banda, then the full time general secretary of the Zambia National Theatre Arts Association (ZANTAA).
The group managed to visit Eastern, Lusaka and Copperbelt provinces performing in major institutions.
The late fore-runner of this column Nkandu Kapepula and Jones Nawa organised shows at Ndola Central Hospital, Northern Technical College (NOTEC), schools and other colleges.
Around this time, while in Chingola those TITRACO members met the Theatre Association of Zambia (TAZ) adjudicator Michael Deacon who told them about how his predecessor Michael Smee was thrilled with the performance of Love Enchained the previous year.
This appreciation and as a youthful theatre that took part in TAZ – generally community theatre groups began to have setbacks when the role of TAZ and ZANTAA set in. No ZANTAA member club was allowed to participate in the TAZ festivals.
In 1983 TITRACO travelled to Libya to participate in the Pan-African Youth Festival originally with the play Song of the Shanties.
On return TITRACO performed at the Mineworkers Union of Zambia rally in Chamboli when Frederick Chiluba was chairperson general of the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions, and first Republican president Kenneth Kaunda in attendance watched the show.
In 1984 Tithandize performed before Kaunda during the independence anniversary cultural panorama in Lusaka, under then ZNS commandant Brigadier General Tom Fara.
Tithandize Theatre was later swallowed up into ZANASE. That is how Bright Banda, Jayne Kumwembe, Elijah Daka and Maidstone Mulenga became part of the ZANASE Theatre. This is where Bright found talented Clotildah Mulenga, Jane Chibumbwe and the late Wilson Kasonde.
Under his theatrical guidance, ZANASE revisited Graig Lungu’s plays among them Horse on the Rider, Welcome to Babylon, and later represented Zambia at the World Festival of youth and students in the capital of the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Moscow.
With Winner Kanyembo at the helm of the trip, ZANASE attended workshops at the Moscow Art Theatre and the Moscow Marly Theatre.
Bright recited some poetry at the Zambian Embassy in Moscow with the Tanzanian Ambassador referring to him as the Black Shakespeare of Southern Africa.
Came1986 ZANASE initiated television drama on Zambia Broadcasting Services (ZBS) called Play for Today which later changed to Play Circle and became a household name. From 1987 onwards, Bright Banda and the late Francis ‘Art’ Bulaka of Tikwiza theatre, acting workshops were held for secondary schools in Lusaka.
Talented actor, the late Augustine Lungu from Kabulonga emerged from such workshops. And for Bright Banda, he went ahead to further his theatrical schooling when under the tutorship of Rudolf Walker and Joanan Maynard the British Council organised a television drama skills training programme.
In 1988 Bright took part in Masauso Phiri’s play Bird shot in Windhoek under the bank of Zambia theatre group starring John ya Otto, the main role as the Namibian freedom fighter.
Two years later Uncle Sobana asked the young Bright to join Professor Mwansa’s latest play and was lined up with big theatre names like Wesley Kaonga, Mutinta Yeta and Ireen Maboshe at Lusaka Theatre club.
Thereafter Bright went on to get involved in Wole Soyinka’s Opera Wonyosi, Edina Grey’s Divorce Party, Indigo, Gods are not to Blame, Utisi and Gangsters.
Bright embarked upon apprenticeship theatre. His eyes stayed wide awake looking for opportunities everywhere.
Generally, his nomadic behaviour gave him the understanding of Zambian theatre; challenges in administration, production, directing, acting and backstage roles all combined. Hence today Bright Banda is a rich resource of knowledge in theatre.
At Malaiti Theatre Club with his former schoolmate Rapson Mulenga who worked for Zesco Limited, the two fused to run lunchtime shows for members of staff.
Notable names in the group included Justine Kangwa and the late Laiza Phiri. With Maurice Tembo’s Teach Me life, Malaiti Theatre Club stirred far performing beyond Evelyn Hone College, University of Zambia and Kafue gorge Zesco Limited Training centre.
In 1992 the late Manda Mwila enticed Bright to join him at Profund as they were busy doing a management play ‘NPF towards the year 2000’, which was staged in Lusaka, Ndola and Livingstone. Later Bright got involved in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s I will Marry when I want with Profund Theatre.
Subsequently, Bright linked up with Richard Mutemwe, producer for the Zambia Information Services and the late Antonio Katakwe, one of the accomplished cinematographers, for a seminar on media filming in readiness for Mwaanga Sibalwa’s screen production Kiss Me Before I die, in which Bright played the main role of Mainga.
In 1994 Bright went back to Lusaka Theatre Club and became part of the cast that attended the PANAFEST in Ghana with a poetical recital.
The cast comprised Chanika Sakafunya, Patrick Kaoma, Ireen Maboshe and Maurice Tembo performing at a specially constructed stage at the famous Almina Castle in Cape Coast where the Slave Trade Monument stands.
In 1996 Bright attended the national theatre resource project on film scriptwriting workshop at the University of Zambia with noted personalities Jayne Kumwembe, Weston Bowa, Rose Ross, Augustine Lungu, Justine Kangwa and Bennie Banda.
At Lusaka Theatre Club, Bright held various roles from productions director to membership chairperson. During his tenure he spearheaded productions and workshops like the ‘Participatory methods for performing artists’ as part of giving a voice to the ‘Marginalised Project’.
He later participated in an international theatre festival in Soweto, Johannesburg, where he staged a one-man play which received overwhelming admiration.
Hence he was booked for Market Theatre, where he similarly received a standing ovation.
In 1999 Bright participated in the ‘Participatory methods for performing artists’ phase II as part of ‘Giving a voice to the Marginalised Project’.
Thereafter, during the annual Ngoma Awards he received the Moses john Kwali Award for Best Media Arts production Live A Dream.
In 2001 under Pace Setters Media trust, Bright was conscripted in ‘Training methodologies for NGOs/CBOs’ organised by the Alliance for Community Action on Female Education.
He wrote and directed A Farmer’s Future, a television series of documentaries on HIV/AIDS among small-scale farmers for the Zambia National Farmers Union.
Abdon Yezi and Bright joined hands to establish Yezi Arts Productions and Promotions in 2002 and won the David Wallace Award at the Ngoma for best director with the Play Tribulations of Job.
That is not enough of Bright, there is much more.
Speaking to Bright, he said he felt there was a lot Zambia could do other than change individual perceptions of theatre.
He said challenges brewed from policies on theatre, film and other arts from schools to the communities in which younger people are found and live.
Bright believes much more can be achieved and done through theatre and film – having held many other roles at nearly all levels in theatre administration.
Bright is optimistic that some day, Zambia will get there as the Government has shown interest in developing the arts.
He called for the public to look out for his Citizens Beware, a video production on the dangers of persistent organic pollutants for the Zambia Environmental Management Agency.
I want to thank the staff at Mopani Copper Mines’ Malcom Watson Hospital in Mufulira, for taking good care of me when I was admitted during the week for my swollen big left toe which heightened my blood pleasure. Singling out the staff I have on mind are Dr Wized Banda, Evans Nsama, Godwin Kunda, Sisters led by Bridget Mwaba, Tetiwe Lusambo, Christine Mabo, Chibwe Chikampa, Emely Chiteti, Elain Matebele and Joyce Mwasinga and male nurse Peter Mubanga who booked me at the OPD. I am now as fit as a fiddle. When I was leaving on Thursday morning, I relished the feeling that being unwell under the care of this staff was incomparable as the staff delightfully took good care of me and the others in the ward. I hope this is what is happening elsewhere in hospitals – nursing is still as noble as the people that should join it.
John.firstname.lastname@example.org – 0955-0977-710975