RAW TALENT OF THE WEEK
THE YOUTHFUL UP AND COMING LITERARY GRANDMASTER
The face behind the swagala yachimizi poem
Every week, Entertainment Malawi brings you some hidden talents that could be the next best things in their respective areas of influence. This week, EM’s Gibson C Kamanga uncovers one wonder kid who, given the right opportunities, could revive the ever fading English drama, and poetry recitals more especially amongst the youths from teenage to around 25.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us get into the unknown life of Yona Mlakatuli, birth name, Yona Gondwe; a Mzuzu-based stage actor and poet.
To others, Izeki ndi Jakobo were just one of those gifted comedians Malawi has ever had. But to up and coming literally grandmaster, Yona Mlakatuli, birth name, Yona Gondwe, the duo were his mentors.
To this baby-faced poet-cum-actor, Izeki ndi Jakobo cleared the path for this talented student Journalist. It was through their radio plays, and their video comedies way back when Yona was in his junior school years that his passion for arts grew.
As Yona recalls, his desire to emulate Izeki ndi Jakobo forced him to seriously try his luck at his primary school, Masasa in Mzuzu.
“It was whilst in standard 3 at Masasa Primary school (in Mzuzu). I had my friend (Christopher Butao) whom, after watching Izeki ndi Jakobo comedies, we could memorize and then mimic them at our school during Assembly events, as well as during end of term galas,” he recalls.
With time, Yona and his colleague started being recognized. Their brand started gaining weight as different organizations within Mzuzu, such as One Village One Product (OVOP), and Mzuzu City Assembly started hiring their services.
The birth of Yona Mlakatuli
Yona was very bright both in and outside the four classroom walls. It was, therefore no eye-brow raising event that his name found itself onto the selection list of starting a new lease of life at Katoto Secondary school.
Whilst there, (Katoto) Yona met a guy, Tannah Harawa (who is currently known as Mr Broken English). By that time, the latter was already becoming a house-hold name via his popular Chichewa poem, *UNG’ONOUNG’ONO*, a collabo with one Padiwa Kasho.
As usual, Yona was curious. He had wanted to understand this man, Tannah better. Yona had wanted to have rich information on the particulars of having one’s poem on air. He started travelling in the shadows of Mr Broken English.
Tannah then introduced the-then curious Yona to officials of Poetry Association of Malawi (PAM). As per rules of the game, Yona had to dish out a poem of his own; he did. And what a masterpiece it was! Swagala yachimizi. The poem, roughly meaning Country boy Swagger, was all about having a stress-free life no matter your background .
So impressed were PAM members that they advised Yona to record his poem so it could be distributed in various radio stations. That also marked the birth of Mlakatuli Yona, the multi-talented youthful stage master.
The rise and rise of Yona, the stage genius
As he was still schooling, Yona was very vibrant both in intra and extracurricular events. As his poetic life was blossoming, so too was his performing artistry on stage. He was also a member of Katoto Secondary school English Drama club.
In 2015, his school partook in Association for Teaching English in Malawi (ATEM) drama competition. Expectedly, Katoto Secondary School Drama club conquered the north. To spice it all, Yona was awarded the best Actor in the region.
It was now time to rub shoulders with the country’s finest. His school club contested in the national tourney at Likuni Boys secondary school in Lilongwe.
At the end of the competition, Saint Patrick’s scooped the first position, and Yona’s Katoto Secondary school lay on 6th position. However, all was not completely lost again as Yona was also voted as the best Actor overall. His role as Mr Bwanali in the play Behind The Agony left many with mouth ajar.
His stage antics attracted many professional drama groups to chase for his signature, but Yona felt it was too early for him to head that direction. As a student, he had to wait, and waiting he did.
Yona, the drama director
After completing his secondary education, Katoto Secondary school, his former school, authorities there sought his services in the performance arena. He was given the role of art director to assist the then pool of performers in preparation for the-then forthcoming ATEM drama competitions.
So, in 2016, Yona drove his former school to another ATEM national finals after it also conquered the north.
During the national tourney at Chipasula Secondary school in Lilongwe, Katoto Secondary School’s The Framing Caff play finished on 5th position.
Now, in 2018, Yona has also been entrusted to mould this year’s cream at Katoto Secondary school. Such is the bravado that is in Yona’s veins currently.
Out of adversity lieth opportunity
Yona is ambitious. Perhaps that is why he has soared higher in the literary platforms. Having completed his secondary education, he, and his friend Fyson Mumba, pondered on forming their own drama group. Through such a grouping, they thought they could be moving across various secondary schools, performing.
But on a second thought, they discarded that idea. From their drawing board, they had overlooked such issues as their authority in the literary arena, plus financially, they were still unstable. The idea flopped.
It was out of that adversity that Yona met James Gondwe, Director for Oneness Arts Theatre (Mzuzu). After much discussion, the former agreed to let Yona be using Oneness Arts Theatre to be flexing his literary prowess. By then, the theatrical group was but dormant so it was a win-win situation between Yona and James.
So James offered the ambitious Yona the podium and the venue for the theatrical group. It is from such a podium that has shaped Yona to where he is today. Through his theoretical expertise, he has garnered so much confidence that to him, public skills is an easy meal.
Most memorable moment
Yona cherishes the time he was voted the best actor during ATEM English drama competition as his lifetime achievement currently.
Attributes of an actor
According to Yona, willingness, determination, hardworking and commitment to the business are some of the attributes of a fully-fledged actor.
Role model in the industry
Misheck Mzumara, Director of Mzuzu University Theatre Arts Group (MUTAG) is a gem that Yona looks up to every time he is on the podium. He feels the guy is worth a space in the country’s performing arts dictionary.
- Date of birth: 16 July 1997
- Current residential city: Mzuzu
- Academic level: A Diploma student at Malawi Institute of Journalism (Mzuzu Campus)