…the parallel journey of two girls featured in B’ella
By Richard Chirombo
Reflective solitude and an in-born force of belief, so says Chimwemwe Mkwezalamba, the multitalented 18-year-old whose adventurers in the newly-released local film ‘B’ella, are the tools that have propelled her into the centre of the artistic storm.
Indeed, while the world of arts has largely been considered a masculine privilege due to the dominance of men, Chimwemwe - who plays the role of Kalilole the antagonist in the film- has managed to make a name for herself even at the international arena.
“So far, I am the youngest (film) director in Malawi because, despite being only 18 years old, I won the Silicon Valley African Film Festival Best Imaging Director in 2013 after I directed a movie called ‘The Designer’, which I dully submitted to festival organisers,” Chimwemwe says.
‘The Designer’, which is 45-minute long, was edited by Mid-Media International director David Maseya and revolves around love triangles among the country’s youth.
The fact that she got an accolade from Silicon Valley- a brand well-known for organising film and music festivals in various parts of the world- some of which include the Silicon Valley Jewish Festival, Silicon Valley African Festival- speaks volumes about Chimwemwe’s level of confidence.
She attributes her relative success, so far, to willingness to learn, saying, in a country where acting is fast emerging as a survival tool for professional actors and actresses, she has taken time off to study the men and women who have made a name in the arts.
“I am, especially, inspired by Dikamawoko Arts director, Tawonga Taddja Nkhonjera, for believing in me. He has always believed that I am capable of doing the things I want, and attaining my ambition in the arts,” Chimwemwe, the Blantyre International University Banking and Finance student, says.
She, however, says her fascination with theatre has not distracted her from pursuing her other career goal, namely, banking and finance. She says she is obsessed with the flow of money and the introduction of banks, saying she believes that combining the two will help dispel the notion that acting is for those who have nothing else to do in life.
On some of the challenges she has faced through her acting roles, Chimwemwe, who comes from Mulanje but has spent a better part of her life in Lilongwe, says acting as the villain against her best friend Vinjeru Kamanga has been one of the challenging things in her life.
“For example, in B’ella, I am mean to everyone, including my real-life best friend, Vinjeru (who plays the character of ‘Bella’ in the film). It’s hard when your best friend becomes your enemy in a film, but I have learned to reconcile the two roles,” she says.
Chimwemwe hastens to say she is enjoying her role in B’ella, especially because it mirrors and expresses things that happen in a typical Malawian village. True to her words, B’ella captures the life of teens at Chadzunda in Blantyre district.
Born on May 5, 1997, the third-born in a family of four says she dreams of starring in a Hollywood film, vowing to make sure that, come what may, she will see to it that she appears on the big screen internationally.
Living the Atem dream
While Chimwemwe’s acting journey could be said to be a result of reflective solitude- where the multi-talented artist has taken advantage of her time alone to concoct award-winning products such as ‘The Designer- the same cannot be said of her best friend, Vinjeru.
Vinjeru, the protagonist in ‘B’ella’, has a story that sounds like that of actress Joyce Mhango Chavula because the name Association for the Teaching of English in Malawi (Atem) features highly in her acting story.
Chavula said in an interview recently she partly owes her success in theatre to her participation in Atem drama. Chimwemwe echoes Chavula when it comes to analysing how it all started for her.
“I seriously ventured into acting while at Likuni Girls Secondary School and featured for the school during Atem drama competitions. I have also acted in such plays as ‘Tubes and Containers’ for Dikamawoko Arts,” Vinjeru says, adding:
“Actually, I am not just into acting. Those who know me will tell you that I am a short story writer, playwright, poet, and singer. I am so many things, artistically, but I am not in a hurry. I take things as they come, one step at a time,” Vinjeru says.
However, the soft-spoken actress, who comes from the area of Traditional Authority Mzikubola in Mzimba district, acknowledges that being new to the big screen made her a bit nervous.
“But I handled the pressure well and are ready to face the world,” Vinjeru says.
She says she is confident that she will make it big, observing that history is littered with women who overcame stereotypes, and systematic oppression to create a tableau of bliss that inspired other women “to dream, think, and act big”.
Vinjeru also observes that it is difficult to escape the
impact of women in the world.
impact of women in the world.
She, however, acknowledges that, while a host of women have triumphed over adversity, making one’s name in acting faces a jungle of professional challenges. She says, even for those who have made a name in theatre, fame has never been is a fluffy concoction of
adorably sweet sensibilities.
adorably sweet sensibilities.
“Women have to work their way through a host of challenges. The good thing is that, given the chance, women have shown that they can exceed expectations and put Malawi on the map. That is what I want to do: be good at what I am doing and serve as a role model to the girl-child. We (girls) should not look down upon ourselves,” Vinjeru says.
Indeed, indications are that Vinjeru is billed to “be good at what I am doing” not only through acting, but school, too. She is a first-year Quantity Surveying student at The Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi.
Born on June 10, 1992, Vinjeru says she has always been inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt, who she describes as a “born artist”.
During her free time, she likes watching movies or sleeping.
“I take every opportunity I get to sleep and, when I wake up, I am always hungry,” she says.