Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tereza Mirovicova Continues Artistic Mission

Czech-born artist, Tereza Mirovicova, is an irony: The world to which she has acquainted herself since 2005- the small locality of Chadzunda on the outskirts of Blantyre City- remains smaller and static, but there has never been any lack of motion in her artistic world.

And, because of no lack of motion in her artistic world, it can as well be said that, through her music compositions, film acting, and philanthropic work, the artistic motions she has made as she passes through the static locality of Chadzunda everyday have changed not only herself and the lives of community members, but Malawi’s arts scene, too.

Yet, this is not what Mirovicova anticipated in 2002, when, while working as a secretary for a company based in Czech Republic’s capital city, Prague, she came across a newspaper advert in one of the newspapers, DNES (Today) inviting those interested to work as Development Aid from People to People (Dapp) Volunteers in 2002.

“I immediately applied because I wanted to experience something different,” she reminisces.

However, this does not mean she found herself into music and film acting on the local scene by accident. She says she fell in love with music while aged eight, a time that coincided with the peak of communism in her native land- a development that meant citizens were not allowed to listen to Western music.

“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.

She is also thrilled by the music of Czech musicians Raduza and Karel Gott.


As happens with all things in life, her tenure as a Dapp volunteer had to come to an end, and this happened in 2003. But Mirovicova vowed to come back, and did just that in 2005. Since then, she has made it a point to spend the bulk of her time in Malawi and spend some three months in her native land.

Indeed, from a philanthropist to musician known for her Chichewa lyrics, she has evolved into so many things.

“I am a film producer, costume designer. I like to cook. I am a poet and likes writing poetry about dogs. I am the director of the Malawian Non-Governmental Organisation boNGO Worldwide, which specialises in creative designing of educational models for primary schools under the The Happy Classroom Project,” Mirovicova says.

And, considering the way she has been hopping between creating poetic sounds out of shapeless words, acting, designing costumes, and creative live creatures on, otherwise, lifeless classroom walls, it is clear that the lanky artist has turned the corner, and cut her teeth in the local arts industry.

It is a personal revolution that started when she featured in the local film, Zione, an HIV and Aids film revolving around a girl who ventures into commercial sex work in what may best be described as a case of fatal love because her intents are selfless: To support her poverty-stricken family.

“The second (film) I featured in is ‘The Last Fishing Boat’ and the third one is ‘B’ella’, which comes out this month. I acted in B’ella and also produced it,” Mirovicova says.

She is yet to act in a supporting role.

Learning curve

Playing these roles has helped the multi-talented artist understand the country’s arts sector. And, from her view as a participant in the goings-on, she observes thus:

“There are many talented and readily-available actors in Malawi, and Malawians seem to love acting and theatre. There are beautiful locations in the country and, additionally, the world hasn’t seen Malawian films and, so, is curious to see them,” she says.

Mirovicova is also wise to acknowledge that the playground is replete with challenges, too.

Observes Mirovicova: “Some of the challenges include unprofessionalism among some of the professionals I have worked with (and) the cinematic story telling is challenged by a lack of tech-equipment.”

Despite these challenges, Mirovicova sees opportunities for film makers.

“We, filmmakers, don’t always have to get funds from donors. There are corporate companies that we can, with proper marketing, partner with. Film might be a good investment. Look at Nolywood!”

She says, for instance, that B’ella was shot on a shoe-string budget, thanks to Agrofert Foundation and Karel Janecek from her native Czech Republic.

Mirovicova says success of the film industry also depends on good working relations between filmmakers and regulatory bodies such as the Censorship Board.

“(After all) they are a regulatory body for film and entertainment. It’s prudent to have a good working relationship between the board and filmmakers. It helps filmmakers het a rating (classification) for their films,” Mirovicova says.

This is an observation Chief Censoring Officer at the Censorship Board, Humphrey Mpondaminga, agrees with.

“As Censorship Board, we value such initiatives (as film previewing) because, apart from doing our official job of classifying movies, the previews offer us the opportunity to make suggestions to local film-makers so that they come up with movies with a Malawian traditional touch. When you watch a movie from South Africa you don’t even need to be told that it is from South Africa because film-makers from there know their country’s signature,” Mpondaminga observes, adding:

“Actually, we can add value to their productions in terms of coming up with high quality pictures that will sell Malawi’s culture and tourism to the international community. A movie does not only tell the story but also tells the scenery of a particular country through the pictures.”

He says the board encourages filmmakers to involve it from script writing to shooting of the movie “because, when they bring to us an already finished product and we tell them to remove some scenes or words, they always complain that they spent a lot of money on production”.

Artistic roots

Come what may, Mirovicova’s increased roles in filmmaking will surely not distract her from the musical journey she started because, just like she felt when she first came across that Western music tape at the age of eight, Malawi music so thrilled her that she decided not just to be part of the audience, but the composer as well.

Some of her songs include Chikondi, which is a celebration of love between two people of different cultures; Chimphongo - a track inspired by Tom Jones’ ‘She’s a lady’, which depicts a young lady’s pride and joy in her new found love; ‘Bwera Apa’; Titsate Mwambo; ‘Simuzasiabe’; Ku Ghetto, among others.

The singer, whose favourite Malawian musician is Ndirande-based singer and guitarist, Muhanya, also likes Malawi’s oldest sounds, ‘Bambo a Tereza’.

“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,” Tereza says.

Indeed, this message resonates with her songs. In them, humanity furnishes the beat while love provides the theme.

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