Fond memories, tribute to Tito Banda : Fallen media trainer, writer

Friday. 2nd May 2014. Evening.

The mood is sombre. Sad. Scores of people who have congregated in the Mzuzu University (Mzuni) main hall are speechless. The look at each other expressionlessly – as if they are dumb. But one can read in their eyes that they have stories to tell. A lot of stories. Onlookers can tell that these people have fond memories of a man they have come to remember and celebrate. A man they never expected to go so soon. Tito Banda – an acclaimed creative writer, academic and lecturer.

Some of his books – surely to tell that his spirit lives on – are stacked all around the big room for everyone to see. Among them are his three novels The Luck Charm, A Bitter Disapproval and Sekani’s Solution – nominated for the 1980 Noma Award.

And his Old Nyaviyuyi in Performance: Seven Tales from Northern Malawi – one his latest works on oral literature – is also placed somewhere to see.

Tito Banda

Tito Banda

And then his photos – all beaming with innocent angelic smiles – cause a stir among most of the attendees. Some – especially workmates, students and family members – break into tears.

It is as if his death that struck like lightening on the 12th of March, 2014 has been rewound and re-happening.

“He liked living a simple life, and always upheld high academic standards,” says Joshua Kumwenda, head of the English department at Mzuni, who was Banda’s immediate boss.

He safely describes him as someone who was a “pillar of the department.”

Kumwenda then lists a litany of Banda’s exploits since his joining Mzuni in 2004.

“He had both theoretical and practical experience in creative writing. When he came in, it was clear we had recruited someone with talent, he adds.

According to Kumwenda, Tito – who died of heart failure at Mwaiwathu Hospital in Malawi’s commercial capital Blantyre after a long battle with stroke – was very vibrant in the organisation of the first ever International Conference on Malawian Literature held in 2012 which brought together Malawi’s literary greats among them Jack Mapanje, Mpalive Msiska and  Lupenga Mphande.

Like Professor Mupa Shumba – Tito’s long time friend and colleague – says earlier, Kumwenda confesses that Tito was “never personal, and unpleasant when telling out the truth.”

Throughout the speeches Tito is described as a down-to-earth personality, a selfless character who lived life to the fullest as a folklorist, creative writer, father, lecturer, et cetera.

Dean of the Faculty of Education Professor Ignatius Jimu and Mzuni’s Vice Chancellor Dr. Robert Ridley share the almost similar sentiments in their memories of Tito Banda.

“We will always remember him for his research, publications and scholarly work,” says Jimu.

He adds: “We will cherish his exploits in creative writing and oral literature.”

And more eulogies flow, unceasingly. Tito is, and will never be forgotten. His spirit lives on.

This writer, who is one of the many people to have benefited from Tito’s expertise in journalism and creative writing, shares his memories thus:

Memories, confusions and fears

 (In memory of Tito Banda)

Your going, Dada Tito, your painful going

Stabbed our hearts like a hot knife

Your death struck like lightening

And sent all of us into emotional paralysis.

Parting is said to be such sweet sorrow. But your going,

That Wednesday afternoon was such a bitter sorrow

Bitter than quinine

Bitter than concoctions from a season African medicine man

Dada Tito, more than three months now, since you closed your eyes

Never to open them again

It seems to us like a bad nightmare. But, unfortunately for us,

No one seems to be waking up.

 

Pumulaninge m’mtende Dada Tito

Pumulaninge M’mtende

 

You were our light, a teacher who doubled as a great parent

Dada Tito you were a talking dictionary,

A walking encyclopedia of literature, creative writing

You were a perfectionist

A man of character, full of humility

An old man who cherished young people with a passion for excellence

A passion to learn, a passion to become the best

Dada Tito you were a star

You still are an inspiration to generations

 

Pumulaninge m’mtende Dada Tito

Pumulaninge m’mtende

 

That Friday on your journey to Chigude

Where you would be laid to rest

We all realized that you were no extraordinary person

But a man who had lived to the fullest as a lecturer, journalist, creative writer,

Folklorist, musician, church elder, husband, father…

You are gone but not forgotten

For we still find solutions when we read your Sekani’s Solution’s

We know it is part of life to be disapproved when we read A Bitter Disapproval

And, of course, we always feel lucky when we read The Luck Charm

 

Pumulaninge m’mtende Dada Tito

Pumulaninge m’mtende

 

 

Like Old Nyaviyuyi yours was a life well performed, well done

That’s why Mourners descended on Chigude from all walks of life

Some on foot, others a variety of limousines

Defying the mud-studded angry road

 

That Friday afternoon

You lay peacefully in that glittering casket

Engulfed by men’s and women’s guilds in white

Forming a sea of angels, epicentred by your body

We all marveled at the spiritual electricity

That hovered over Chigude like a dark cloud

 

Eulogies flowed: the church, the university, friends, and relatives

In particular, Languages and Literature Department cried foul:

Commas, full stops, semi-colons et cetera known as ‘titos’

Shall we no longer behold during moderation

For it was his talent to identify missing, misplacement in exam papers

Who will tito us then NOW that he is gone?

 

Paradoxically, the casket looked beautiful as it got lowered into the graveyard

It harbored Tito on his road to the unknown world

Oh! Our Tito was really gone?

He is really gone?

Grabbed within earshot and eyesight

When we all had thought he would recover

When courses were already allocated to him to resume lectures on 17 March.

Farewell Tito in your eternal bliss!

Till we meet again in the Lord’s bosom!

 

Pumulaninge m’mtende Dada Tito

Pumulaninge m’mtende

 

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