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BJ wants artistes back to school

HENRY with his children.

SUNDAY PROFILE with YANDE SYAMPEYO, Lusaka
IT IS Henry Baldwin Joseph Phiri’s desire for local artistes to get back to school and acquire some form of qualification.
Henry, an accomplished actor, comedian and marketing specialist, feels artistes should not only rely on their talents to be successful, but should endeavour to attain certification.
“It is one thing to be an actor or comedian, but if you have nothing to write home about, in terms of certification, it becomes difficult to excel in your career.
“Get some form of qualification in acting so that apart of the talent, the public should begin to respect you for your qualifications,” Henry says.
The artiste, who is popularly known as BJ says artistes should strive to attain tertiary education to learn and master the business side of their careers.
“When art is not properly managed, it can be a waste of time. And remember, God gave us these talents to manage,” he says.
Henry, who is the board chairperson of the Lusaka Theatre Cooperative Society, says in recognising the need to certify artistes, the National Arts Theatre Association of Zambia (NATAZ), the Qualifications Authority and other stakeholders are currently developing a syllabus that will encompass all disciplines of art.
“We are trying to come up with a syllabus that will be offered by tertiary institutions, it will be a combination of marketing and art. We want artistes to begin to say, “I have a certificate or a diploma or degree in this field of art.”
“We need to build capacity in our artistes and we need affordable schools to offer such services. We are in talks with UNZA and ZAMCOM; we want them to begin to offer these courses. I know the Zambia Open University is already doing something in that direction,” he says.
Henry, a consummate stand-up comedian, show business performer and director of ceremonies, says the Lusaka Theatre Cooperative Society has further embarked on Public Private Partnership (PPP) to modernise the Lusaka Play House to transform it into a hub of art.
“We want the various arts associations to have a fixed abode. We also want to decentralise their presence in all the 10 provinces,” Henry says.
He, however, is of the view the associations should be managed by professionals.
“It is not about the number of years one has been on stage. One must at least have a minimum qualification of marketing to market theatre,” he says
Nonetheless Henry, who is also the national general secretary of the National Theatre Arts Association of Zambia (NATAAZ), says the industry which has recorded significant growth in the recent past has massive talent which needs to be nurtured.
He says Government’s desire to promote and develop the industry through the creation of the Ministry of Tourism and Arts has impacted positively on the sector.
However, Henry is of the view that Government should consider introducing a waiver of taxes on film, music and other equipment imported into the country to further develop the industry.
BJ, who is also a trade marketing specialist at Zamtel, says digital migration has further presented an avenue for artistes to ‘spread their wings’.
“Today, I can safely resign from my job and survive on art because it has started paying well with the coming of Zambezi Magic, Topstar and Kwese television, among others.
Born in Zambezi district in 1978 from Joseph Phiri and Silla Sakapela, BJ is the first child in a family of six. He started acting at Sunday school during Christmas plays. He played the role of Joseph.
Henry’s passion for acting was harnessed in Grade Eight at Kabulonga Boys Secondary school when he featured in a play on vandalism with the likes of Mateo Phiri.
After school, he was introduced to the Play House by Henry Joe Sakala.
“We went to film a project by the late Robert Mubiana dubbed “A friend in need,” he recollects.
BJ has appeared in several local stage plays and international films which include: Chiti Muluba, Rulers of the Lost Continent, Victims, Jesus Christ Super Star, Alfonso and Santine, Headmaster and the Rascals, Fever (as Detective Soko), I am Not a Witch (as Mr Banda) and in Zuba (as Uncle Limbani).
Similarly, BJ has appeared in several TV commercials such as Boom Bubble plus (advert of the year 2017), Mikalile and Zesco Safety adverts.
“I am among few people that are highly blessed because I get paid for doing what I love. I love cracking jokes and I get paid for that. I love marketing and I get paid for that, what a joy,” Henry says.
He holds a degree in marketing, diploma in computing and information systems and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Business Administration.
Henry is also a member of the Zambia Institute of Marketing (ZIM) Technical Committee
He is grateful to his wife of 14 years Mulenga Mbulo for her love and support towards his career.
The couple has three children namely Tukuza, Takondwa and Wana WA Nzambi.
A member of the Men’s Christian Fellowship under the United Church of Zambia (UCZ), Henry keeps fame and female fans in check by sticking to his marriage vows.
Henry’s greatest inspiration in the industry is anchored on the wise words from Abdon Yezi, who advised him to “Never let your ambition kill your talent.”
He advises fellow artistes to be realistic by not overrating their worth.
“Do not overrate yourself by charging exorbitant fees to appear in a film or to perform at comedy show or any other function. Let your passion for the industry be the driving force,” he says.
Henry further advises fellow artistes to be innovative and competitive in the advent of technology and social media.
“Apparently it is now becoming difficult to be comedian, not only in Zambia but world over. The moment you perform, the material will be on social media and you cannot repeat it,” Henry said.

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