Monday, December 26, 2011

Tereza Mirovicova: Singing Malawian Songs Away From Home

By Richard Chirombo
What love is greater than this: A young lady aged 24, fully aware of
her position as the only child to a loving Czech family, falls into
the pit of curiosity and decides to go to an unknown country in the
deep of Africa.

In The Heat of Things: Tereza. She is also a movie-maker, having produced the Chichewa firm, 'Zione'in 2010, and is currently working with Tawonga Nkhonjera's Dikamawoko Arts producing a new firm called 'Bella'. The firm is being shot in Chadzunda with local Secondary School students.

She had no idea about the country she was about to set foot on. The
two things she knew were that this country was in Africa, and that she
very much wanted to be a volunteer.
And, so, started Tereza Mirovicova’s journey to Malawi- a journey
sparkled by a newspaper advert in Czech’s Dhes (Today) newspaper
calling for people interested to work as Development Aid from People
to People (Dapp) Volunteers in 2002. Tereza was working as secretary
for a company based in the Czech Republic’s capital, Prague.
“I immediately applied because I wanted to experience something
different,” says Mirovicova with a grin.
That decision did two things. On one hand, it marked the end of her
blossoming secretarial career. It also broke her parents’ hearts, on
the other.
“It was hard on my parents because I am their only child,” says Mirovicova.
But Tereza was resolute in her decision to sample the unknown that was
Africa, in part because she knew she had not, like many youths,
dropped into a vacuum of childish objectives but took the right path.
Hers was the courage and passion of a daughter caught up in the net of
a once-in-a-lifetime chance.
Tereza never regrets ever making that decision, more so because “I
could not have positively impacted on people’s lives in my position as
secretary the way I have done here by contributing towards early
childhood development efforts in Malawi”.
But it was not easy to make her decision as it required a great deal
of blending moral courage with other traits which make up character:
honesty, deep seriousness, a firm sense of principle, candour, and
Convinced that she had these traits- a position strengthened by the
realization that, everywhere in the world, people liked good things
and placed an equal valuation upon character and intellect- Tereza
visited Malawi on a tour of duty in 2002.
Tereza had lived in her native Czech Republic for 22 years the time
she made the decision work for Dapp between October 2002 and March
2003. Of course, she was at the peak of her life, and- while other
youths sailed with the winds in her home country, making merry and
enjoying youth hood’s great offerings- Tereza had reached the decisive
moment when her conscience, life events, and circumstances propelled
her into the centre of passion’s storm.
”When I first came to Malawi, I went to work in Chiradzulu. My work
there influenced my decision to come back. This is after I learned
that it is possible- in a rural setting, and without much money- to
contribute towards high quality early childhood education,” says
That is how Tereza’s journey back home differed from other volunteers.
The others went back with mixed memories about the people of Malawi-
in terms of the ideals they lived for and the principles they fought
for, their virtues and their sins, their dreams and their
disillusionment, the praise they earned and the abuse they endured,
and , of course, their ever-present smiles even in the middle of
“But I was going back home with a wish: to come back at all costs,” says Tereza.
Indeed, she raised US$ 90,000 and came back with some two Czech
friends for their Malawi project. One of those friends, Simone Fuchs,
still works with her as the Education Director for boNGO (Based On
Need-Driven Grassroots’ Ownership), their organisation. This is how
the Dapp story of 2002 is not wholly separate from the story of
Tereza’s present.
boNGO’s work is a celebration of local proverbs, says Tereza, and
centres on the Chichewa proverb m’mera mpoyamba.
“This Malawian proverb represents the importance of the first years of
a child’s life. 80 percent of the brain develops before the age of
eight, and it is these years that lay the crucial foundation for a
child’s physical, intellectual, and emotional development in life.
“There is urgent need for quality care and education for Malawi’s five
million children under the age of eight,” says Tereza of Bongo.
BoNGO, which started in 2005, and runs Umodzi-Mbame Model Care Centre
in Juma Village, T/A Somba, Blantyre, occupies much of Tereza’s time.
But it is boNGO, also, that has brought Tereza into the music
limelight as a Chichewa music singer.
The sight of a ‘white’ lady singing in vernacular at the Lake of
Stars, Blantyre Arts Festival, College of Medicine’s multi-purpose
hall, old mutual and Doogles puzzles many people. This puzzlement
amazes Tereza.
“I sing in Chichewa out of passion, and also the zeal to fundraise for
boNGO. I want Malawians stop, think and smile,” says Tereza.
She is a multitalented movie-maker, and plays the role of poet,
story-teller, dramatist, and musician for Dikamawoko- owned by Taonga
Born on December 6, 1978, Tereza fell in love with music at the tender
age of eight. This was at the peak of Communism, a time when Czechs
were not allowed to listen to Western music. So worse was the
situation, in a country so totally given up to the spirit of
communism, that not to follow blindfolded was an expiable offense.
”However, I found an old Western music tape with songs from the 50s
and 60s. I so liked the music that I started dancing to it. In fact,
songs of the 60s remain my main weakness, “she says.
It is a sense that came to her when he first listened to Chichewa
music, too. In fact, the musician has just finished recording an
11-track Chichewa album. It has songs like Chikondi, a celebration of
love between two people of different cultures. The addition of the
Mbira introduces melodies that make the heart sparkle.
There is also Chimphongo - a song inspired by Tom Jones’ She’s a lady,
is a depiction of a young lady’s pride and joy in her new found love,
Bwera Apa, Serenoa, Titsate Mwambo, Simuzasiabe, and Ku Ghetto, among
“My favourite Malawian musician is Ndirande-based singer and
guitarist, Muhanya. I also love old Malawi music, the likes of Bambo
aTereza,” says Tereza.
In the Czech Republic, Tereza is thrilled by the songs of Raduza and Karel Gott.
“My message to Malawians is that they should value their culture;
culture gives people a sense of what they are. Lastly, let me say that
we are all one. I just want Malawians to treat me as one of them, not
(as) a white lady. We are all equal,” says Tereza.
This message resonates with Tereza’s songs. Common humanity furnished
the beat; love provides the theme. She also urges people to share
with others.
When we give to others, she enthuses, we are making the immeasurable
world measurable through our deeds.
Malawi was, before 2002, an immeasurable world to Tereza. But,
through her courage, Malawi became measurable in connection with her,
that she now feels happy to divide her year in two parts: nine months
in Malawi, three months in the Czech Republic.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have a look at Tereza's music video Chikondi: