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Henry Sakala unmasks his other passion

KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka
HE HAS titled his book, which is a collection of short stories and poems, Unmasked; it is a fitting title. He is widely known as a gifted writer, producer, director and actor, but in this book, he is unmasking his other passion, poetry and short story writing.
If you want to know his deeper thoughts and emotions, then it is in this book.
So that you know him; Henry Joe Sakala has made great strides in both local theatre and film. A National Arts Council of Zambia Ngoma award-winning writer and actor, Henry belongs to the top bracket of Zambian writers, directors, producers and actors.
He wrote the screenplay for the 2009 multi-award winning feature film of the year, Reflections of Sadness. The film won the best feature film of the year at the Ngoma Awards before going on to grab the best feature film, best picture and best actress awards at the National Association for Media Arts film awards.
Earlier in 2006, he had written and starred in the short film Guns and Rings which went on to win the Ngoma award for best short film. The short film also received some international acclaim and was nominated for an award at the 2007 ZAFAA Awards and was selected for the Zimbabwe International Film Festival.
This was a year after he had written and starred in a feature film titled Silent Voice, which helped kick-start the Zambian film industry and indeed ushered him in the world of filmmaking.
He followed it with a feature film When the Curtain Falls, which he wrote and directed.
He has gone on to play a very significant role in the film industry; his works include television productions, short and feature films. He is behind the scripting and development of hit dramas like the award-winning Survivors, Konstable, Brothers, and Dancers shown on Muvi TV.
Other feature films that he has written, produced and directed, include Rewind, Street Circles, Redemption, Judas Affair, LSK Heroes and Land Wrangles.
He also starred and co-produced the hit Zambian action comedy Red Bag, which also featured the likes of Alfred Kandolo Phiri, Tommy Lungu, Mark Chilongo, Mwepu Kapungwe, Mwine Mushi, Kasaka and Milton Chipipa.
But there is more; he wrote award-winning plays like Living With The Enemy, The Last Steps, and A Judas Affair. He was awarded the Ngoma award for best actor in 2005 after starring in The Last Steps.
Other plays he has written include Town Boy, which won the best script at the Yezi-Arts Promotions and Productions-organised April International Theatre Festival in 2014; Surviving the Wilderness; Without a Kiss and Love Song for an Impotent Son-in-law, which he co-wrote with award-winning writer and director Samuel Kasankha.
Next week, Without a Kiss will go on stage at the Lusaka Playhouse before it heads to Kitwe Little Theatre the following week. Poet and broadcast journalist Boyd Kaimbi Chibale, who is also National Theatre Arts Association of Zambia chairman, is directing and producing the play.
As an actor, Henry featured in Samuel Kasankha’s plays Daughters and Workmates (1998-1999); Rulers of the Lost Continent (1999-2000), Much Ado About a Dream (2000); Bad Timing (2000 -2001); Down the Status Ladder (2002-2003); Sex Unlimited (2004); Mulenga Kapwepwe’s Kafuti – The Brazen Serpent (2000); Benne Banda’s Samangika (2001); Justin Kangwa’s They Must be Sick (2002); and Charles Chitundu’s Willing Captivity (2003).
Henry is a journalist by profession and currently works for Millennium Challenge Account Zambia in the communications department. Previously, he worked for The Post (in liquidation), Muvi TV, and presented a health awareness programme called Kwathu, which used to air on the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation from 2003 to 2004.
Last year, he came out second in the first-ever Zambian Writers Short Story Competition, with his story, The Body. It is after this that he went on to release Unmasked: A Collection of Short Stories and Poems.
In this book, he has Passing the Bone and Night Nurse as his two short stories and a collection of his poems.
You can title the first short story The Trouble with Man, if you like.
“He changes moods like a chameleon changes its colours,” one of the dogs observed in Passing the Bone.
The dogs, named Bobo and Ninja (you would expect Henry to name them that way), have served their master Mr Hakwendo diligently but at the first time of making a mistake, they are punished severely.
It puzzles Bobo and Ninja.
“But why do we serve him?” “It is our purpose.” “What is man’s purpose?” “He doesn’t know.” “What a shame.” “Our job is to serve the master. We must bite off the flesh of the master’s enemies!”
For someone who has written a number of scripts both for film and the stage, it is not surprising that Henry has adopted a conversational style in his short stories. A conversational style is usually the business in fiction, as it appears like the writer is writing in his own natural voice. But although in conversational writing one is free to break a few rules of grammar, Henry does not break them. He maintains the dialogue flawlessly.
This is no legal document.
Henry’s teacher of English at school will feel frustrated that he has abandoned the formal writing style that was bestowed on him while at school.
In the second story, Night Nurse, Henry adopts a more descriptive style although you still find a lot of dialogue in the piece. He also adds a relatively long poem within the story. It is a love poem, one in which Mabvuto shows appreciation for his girlfriend, the student nurse Juliet.
Oh, yes, Night Nurse is a love story, albeit a sad one.
Juliet’s boyfriend, Mabvuto, is killed by robbers, making her life to completely change. But as fate would have it, she meets the man who had killed her boyfriend in one of the hospital wards while she is working.
The man was being treated for gunshot wounds, and Juliet, aware that her boyfriend died of gunshot wounds, had vowed that he would not let another man die of gunshot wounds. But this man, whose life she was trying to save, is actually the man who killed her boyfriend.
Haunted every day, the man pleads with Juliet to let him die. When Juliet asks why he wants to die, he confesses the killings that he has undertaken over the years, and one of them is Mabvuto.
What should she do?
“I killed him,” whispered Juliet.
That is how the story starts, and indeed, that is how the story ends.
In between the two stories are poems, some of them love poems like My Sweet, My Love and Divine, but also sad lamentations like They Say They Love Me.
This is Henry’s passion.

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