From Play Circle to Zuba

SAKAFUNYA acts as Zuba’s father Mapenzi in the telenovela.

THE buzz around the so-called Zambia’s first telenovela ‘Zuba’ is understandably on the character bearing the same name of the television drama series.
There are other characters surrounding Zuba (Mwaka Mugala) that are easily recognisable to the viewers such as Limbikani (Henry BJ Phiri), who was known as Ngalande when he featured in another local television drama ‘Kabanana’. Anne Katamanda, acting as Mrs Sosala, is another recognisable face as is singer Viola, who takes the role of a maid in “Zuba”.
But long before “Kabanana”, “Zuba” or indeed any of these television dramas showing on DStv’s Zambezi Magic and other local television channels came on the screens, Zambian viewers used to be hooked to “Play Circle” on the then Zambia Broadcasting Services (ZBS).
Most of the characters from the “Play Circle” days have since died; Danny “Sauzande” Kanengoki, Chanda “Maximo” Mwale, Graig Lungu and Elijah Daka among others.
But there is one character who is still around and is very much active.
He is actually bringing a completely different complexion to ‘Zuba’ He is Sakafunya Chanyika and he stars as Mapenzi, Zuba’s father.
During the days of ‘Play Circle’, which was pioneered by ZANASE on ZBS, Uncle Sak’s, as he is fondly called in acting circles, was then commonly known as Dominic.
The drama series ‘Zuba’ revolves around an innocent, rural teenage girl who leaves her family to do a maid’s job with a complex, wealthy urban family where she falls for the young son of the house.
“I was called by Becky Ngoma to be part of the cast, I must say I was amazed to know big directors like her can still remember my shine, I am and still pleased to play Zuba’s father,” says Sakafunya, 45.
He is certainly playing the humble one here; Sakafunya is one of the most accomplished actors around. Even though it is a long time since he appeared on a television drama before, he has been active on stage through theatre particularly at the Lusaka Playhouse where he has appeared in a number of productions for NAPSA Theatre Club.
Sakafunya started acting at a tender age, and like other actors, he was only on stage for fun. He did not realise until later that theatre and acting will be in his way of life.
“I started acting when I was 12, I first acted as one of the wise men in church in a play of the Lord Jesus Christ, and from there I played the Shepherd, then king Herod himself, that’s how I started acting,” says Sakafunya, who was born in Kabwe.
That was only the start.
“The time I was in primary school, I did not do a lot because my parents were not of the idea, they wanted me to be a pilot but acting was in me so I was in the drama club but I was not an active member,” he says.
Sakafunya went to Neem Tree Primary School in Kabwe in 1977 before moving to Kabwe Secondary School in 1985. He completed his secondary school at Kabulonga Boys in Lusaka in 1989.
It was at Kabulonga Boys Secondary School that he met Augustine Lungu, one of the country’s well-known actors. Kabulonga Boys was very active with the arts at the time. The Likes of Maiko Zulu, Antony ‘Daddy Zemus’ Kafunya and James “Chamanyazi” Ngoma were all actively involved in the arts at Kabulonga Boys.
Sakafunya joined the drama club at Kabulonga Boys.
Like most people involved in acting, he speaks highly of Augustine’s abilities.
“I must say that to date, I’ve never seen anyone who can act like that, we were close during the school years and I learnt a lot from him,” he says. “He actually mentored me and I am who I am today because of him.”
After high school, together with his Augustine, they went for auditions at the Lusaka Playhouse where veteran Fred Chanda was searching for actors for a stage play ‘Mission to Kala”.
Both Augustine and Sakafunya impressed during the auditions. Augustine go the main character while Sakafunya got the supporting role.
“There had not been a production at the Playhouse for years, [and] the auditions attracted many artistes and the auditorium was full to capacity,” he says. “I was lucky to get a role.”
Sakafunya has acted in well over 25 plays and alongside the likes of Sauzande, Maximo, Manda Mwila, Patrick Magoro, Graig Lungu, Joemwa Mtsinje Mwale and Godfrey “Kapotwe” Mwape.
Some of the plays he has acted in are ‘Divorce Party”, the musical ‘Opera Wonyika’, ‘Breasts of Stone’, ‘Utisi’, ‘Grazing in the Sun’, ‘Frog of All Seasons’, ‘The Gods Are Not To Blame’, “Am Sorry Father Is Mad’, ‘Does The President Know?’ and Lobengula, which won him the best supporting actor award in 1994.
“Those were the days, acting was so natural and the productions were original,” he says. “The beautiful part was that almost everyone supported us.”
Sakafunya’s stage performances at the Lusaka Playhouse were enough to get the attention of the then formidable ZANASE Theatre Club.
“ZANASE approached me to be part of the ‘Play Circle’ crew and I accepted the offer because then, the actors and actresses under ZANASE were fully employed and paid monthly,” he says.
His first play was ‘Headmaster’ which was written and directed by Sauzande, who remained active with ZANASE despite rising through the ranks with his employers ZNS.
In 1996, he performed at the Ghana Arts Festival, and in 1998, he represented the country in South Africa at the Market Theatre and Zitenge Theatre. The same year, he attended the Zimbabwe National Arts Festival.
Before, he was selected and trained in scriptwriting and filmmaking by the Zambia Institute of Mass Communication (ZAMCOM) in conjunction with the UNESCO Zimbabwe Film and Video Project.
“About 10 Zambian actors were trained in basic film making by international film makers, I leant a lot from that programme that is why I am able to act even in this era,” says Sakafunya, who is working on his own productions which he hopes will be able to show on Zambezi Magic.

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