‘Shalapo Chanichandala’ on stage

SIMON Mwansa Kapwepwe and Mulenga Kapwepwe (right).

PLAYWRIGHT Mulenga Kapwepwe has adapted her father’s book Shalapo Chanichandala for a Bemba language musical play to be shown at the Lusaka Playhouse next Friday and Saturday.
The stage play is being directed by veteran Sam Kasankha with Isaac Kalumba as the co-director. Mwansabombwe Member of Parliament Rogers Mwewa is the producer.
Former Vice President Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe’s book is an offering of traditional wisdom on life and living written in the times of rapid urbanisation that was taking place during colonial times, specifically in the early 1950s.
In sharing this wisdom, Simon Kapwepwe wrote the book as a story filled with imaginary characters, whose names he chose because he had never heard of any person called by the names he uses and therefore felt safe that he would not offend anyone.
Mulenga says the first manuscript of Shalapo Chanichandala was almost lost when he was arrested in 1958 after forming the Zambia African National Congress (ZANC).
She says many of the documents and papers that were taken by the police during his arrest were never seen again.
However, while he was in prison, his wife Salome submitted the book for publication. The manuscript was however rejected with the note that although the book itself was good and publishable, it could not be published by a government institution because Kapwepwe’s political activities were directed against the Government.
In 1959, Simon Kapwepwe sent the manuscript to Egypt for safekeeping with some friends. After independence, he retrieved the manuscript from Cairo and submitted it for publishing. The book was first published in 1967 by Zambia Publications Bureau Lusaka, and then reprinted by Zambia Education Publishing House.
In the foreword, Simon Kapwepwe gives special thanks to his friend, first President Kenneth Kaunda, who encouraged him and pushed him to write the book and a Mr L. B. Chitalima and a Mr Chifwaila, who told him the book was worth publishing.
He also gives a special thanks to his wife Salome for explaining Bemba women’s teachings and other pieces of wisdom and for checking and correcting the language and style of the book. Without her corrections, he feels he may have been laughed at some mistakes he may have inadvertently made. Lastly he thanks his two daughters, Sampa and Chilufya who were always there to bring him water as he worked.
Mulenga says the book has been translated into English and French with a number of academic articles focusing on different aspects of the book being written. Kalebalika Mukuka wrote a psychology journal article pointing out the idea of Ubuntu implicit in the book Shalapo Chanichandala published in 2013.
The story begins when a woman, Na Chanda, is attacked and killed by a lion. She leaves behind two young children, Chanda and his sister Chileshe. A month after the burial, ulupupo ceremony is held to complete the burial protocols with the usual dancing and drinking in the village.
Years pass and Chanda, now a teenager, is of age to pay the colonial taxes and the problem of umusonko comes to haunt his grandfather Chanichandala. Somehow he must find the money to pay Chanda’s tax. Some young men in the village already have plans to leave for the towns, and his family decide that Chanda should go with them to earn the money then come back and pay his taxes.
The group starts off for the Copperbelt, but during their journey, which takes them through Congo, they meet some adventures, but finally make it to Ndola. For the first time in life, Chanda comes in contact with and becomes involved with all sorts of urban practices he has never seen before and which he was warned against.
Somehow, Chanda never finds the means to go back to the village. When he reaches the age of retirement, he is poor and alone. His sister’s children come looking for him, find him and take him back to the village.

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