You may have known and enjoyed the stand-up comedy performances from local breed such as Mada Nyambo, Mr. Jokes and Sleak Tetti just to mention a few. But have you ever watched Anganga Ajabiru? He is a rare germ in as far as stand-up comedies are concerned in Malawi, a marvel to watch. Our helplinemw.com reporter Taim Jimmy, engaged him on his experience, successes and the life and journey of an untold multitalented comedian, the story of Abdulrahaman Enock Chitemwe AKA Anganga Ajabirubi. Excerpts:
Q: Who is Enock Chitemwe?
A: I am a third born child in a family of 8 children, he is one of the creative Muslim artists from Chiumba village Traditional Authority Jalasi, Mangochi district. I grew up in Blantyre, Bangwe Township to be precise where I nurtured and mastered the art of stand-up comedy.
Q: Can you take us through your journey to stand-up comedies?
A: I always loved comedies since my childhood years. While attending my primary school at Bangwe CCAP I used to write short stories, drawing cartoons, poetry and at the end of school term I would create a costume to wear for my performance,just to entertain my fellow friends during school closing ceremony. My talent brosomed when I was in secondary school where I joined a drama group called The Cartoon Group.
It was a 3 member drama group, Tonnex Leman, Duwa and I. We gave each other names delivered from popular cartoon characters. My friends were Tom & Jerry. I was Mickey Mouse. This drama group created doors of opportunity to perform drama and comedies at Zai Private Secondary School in Bangwe from 2001 to 2003.
In 2003 I moved to Bangwe Islamic Secondary School. At this school I was privileged to be chairperson of Muslim Students Association (MSA)
As MSA Chairperson I Introduced drama activities with my classmate Hashim Mtelera, a Radio Islam presenter, who then was my vice chairperson. Together we performed drama and comedies at some Islamic get together and during school assemblies.
In the same year Hashim and I joined Bangwe based Muslim youth group called Swalihina Institute for Muslim Affairs. This group brought me in the limelight as we performed in various Islamic gatherings.
Q: You are known as Anganga Ajabiru in the art industry, who is Anganga Ajabiru?
A: Anganga Ajabiru is a character I created when we were introduced and featured in a radio program called Tamvani, on Radio Islam Malawi. That same year, 2006, I began recording radio comedies in Yao language. It was part of a program segment called Luso lathu inside Tamvani program, a production of Swalihina Institute for Muslim Affairs.
Anganga is an old man who lives in the village. A granny. Ajabiru is his grandson who usually recieves some advice from his grandfather. Therefore,I came up with the Yao name Anganga wawo Ajabiru (AJabiru’s granny). Later, I shortened it to Anganga Ajabiru to make it easy when calling.
Anganga Ajabiru is an ignorant person but he doesn’t realize his ignorance. He thinks he is clever than anybody else… so at the end he commits a lot of blunders in life.
Q: What inspires you to create something very funny at the same time educative?
A: Most people easily get tired and bored when lecturing or presenting issues at some point. Listeners also cannot take long time listening to serious issues for hours. You become bored though the information may be useful. Having that in mind, I thought I should be civic educating the public but in a funny way. Let the audience relax and laugh as they grab the message along the way.
Q: Actually, what message do you portray in your acting?
A: The main message I put across is about Mannerism. A person must have good manners in order to live a better life. Conflicts arise because of bad manners. My second mission is to try to end some bad cultural beliefs and practices which are contrary to Islamic teachings.
Q: For how long have you been in the acting industry?
A: 16 years.
Q: What are the achievements from your acting skills?
A: I have toured many places I could never imagine and managed to go. I have visited countries like Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Republic of South Africa.
I managed to secure a scholarship, jobs and contracts just because of acting. Above all to be famous or a celebrity is also an achievement.
Q: You have been known to showcase your talent in the Muslim community. How has been the reception of your work?
A: Ok, in Muslim community I boomed. It is where I made my name and a lot of Muslims love my work. When it comes to live performances the audience has been positive and come in large numbers just to watch Anganga Ajabiru. I can proudly say through Anganga Ajabiru some none Muslims started listening to Radio Islam Malawi just to catch Anganga.
Q: Your work has been premiered in various media houses including Radio Islam Malawi, are you satisfied?
A: Not satisfied. I wish I go beyond that and make up to international media houses…That is why Anganga Ajabiru is still being rebranding just to suit modern approach and try to penetrate international art markets.
Q: How many DVDs have you produced so far?
A: I have produced eight DVDs so far. These are Anganga Ajaburu part 1-4, the Revenge of Abudu, Anganga in Zimbabwe, Anganga in South Africa and Anganga Ajabiru series collection.
Q: How is the market as regards to your work?
A: At first the market was better .when technology in Malawi was not that much known to ordinary people. But from 2000 up to date the market is tough because of these technology devices like flash discs, memory cards, and internet. A lot of people stopped buying hard of copies of CDs and DVDs. They just download and share to others.
Q: What are some of the challenges you encounter in line of duty?
A: Lack of studio equipment … This delays my production process. Lack of support, most people just enjoys being entertained but they have no interest in how or how much I invest in production.
Lastly my career also depends on what Islamic teachings say about entertainments and comedies. It is a challenge to balance the two.
Q: Are you married?
A: Yes I am married and I have one child, a three year old boy.
Q: How does it feel to be a comedian?
A: Sometimes I feel like being somebody unique. I feel being special and gifted, however sometimes I feel embarrassed because of how some people treat me. They just regard me as a childish person or that all my life is just a joke. They think I cannot do something serious or tangible to the public.
Q: How do you balance between Anganga Ajabiru as an actor and Enock Chitemwe?
A: When I am not performing I am a serious person. I am a quite person who does not talk anyhow. When I am Anganga Ajabiru, performing, I am an excessive talker and I can even talk nonsense . I manage to live these two lives separately and to be frank with you I am discipline person outside comedy.
Q: Where do you want to be in the next ten years?
A: God willing, I wish to have an established studio with full video production equipment that will allow me to easily produce comedies that can compete at the international market. I would like to be connected to international film industry and well-funded projects.
Q: How do the public treat you as Anganga Ajabiru and Enock Chitemwe on the other hand?
A: Some people do not differentiate between the two. But for those who understand acting, when I am Anganga Ajabiru they regard me as a toy to play with. Something that removes stress through laughter. When I am Enock Chitemwe people treat me with respect and they feel proud of me. They treat me as one of the prominent persons in the society.
Q: What is your favorite meal?
A: Rice and Chicken.
Q: Share with us some of your greatest moment as an actor.
A: The moment I was invited to perform in South Africa. I felt being important and it is a trip i never imagined. I got a lot of life experience. The whole trip was fully and well-funded.
Q: Apart from acting what else do you do for a living?
A: Well, I work as a producer at Angaliba Television & Radio station. I also run a small business.
Q: Who is your favorite actor/actress?
A: Rowan Atkinson AKA Mr. Bean.
Q: In recent years we have seen you going more into stand-up comedies with the newly released video about corona virus prevention, tackling social distance and lockdown. Is this part of rebranding you hinted earlier?
A: YES ., just to improve and move with time. You know the world has changed.
Q: Anything you want our readers should know about you as we wind up?
A: I thank Allah for a wonderful talent, all my fans and those who support my activities. I cannot leave without mentioning Swalihina Institute for guidance in my career, Radio Islam for exposure, Kalera Media Studio for my first DVD production. Credits should also go to HBI institute for media skills and Angaliba Televion for giving me platforms, Surprise Samu for creating my website and Albert Kadyakale for studio equipment. I cannot mention people one by one because they are many who give guidance and advice. However I still need more support for me to move my career to other levels. Therefore, I appeal to those who feel can come in and contribute in one way or other, please do so. You are welcome. Finally thank you Mr. Taim Jimmy for giving me this platform.