“SELAKO NTAMBE” of Kitwe is one of Zambia’s leading and most consistent comedy outfits. Here the group’s Director and funny man VAN WYK MUMBA shares their story and his views on the arts with The Independent Observer Arts Writer LEONARD KOLOKO.
LK: “Selako Ntambe!” – What an interesting name, how did it come about?
VM: Selako Ntambe means “kindly excuse me, I want to watch.” It’s actually taken from the comical sketch entitled Under the Table. As a group we thought it was wise to come up with a name that people could easily identify us with. The line “Selako Ntambe” is the catch phrase in this much loved humorous sketch.
LK: …And who is Van Wyk Mumba?
VM: I am me, usually people call me a comedian, but I guess the name artist describes me better looking at the so many artistic areas I engage myself in. I am a humble guy from a humble family; grew up in Ndola in my early life and Kitwe later on. I am currently a metallurgical engineer with Konkola Copper Mines.
LK: When did you start venturing into drama and comedy?
VM: I engaged into theatre activities at an early age; around 1990 when I was only in grade five, to be specific. Initially I sang in the drama club at primary school and later on was drafted into the main acting crew. As for comedy I can’t specify when exactly it started but I think it must have started way early in my life. I would like to make it clear that it was my friends who encouraged me to give standup comedy and writing a shot.
LK: Apart from theatrical arts what other creative activities do you “indulge” yourself in?
VM: Given enough time on my hands, I would do lot. I try to charm audiences as director of programs for corporate functions and on a small scale as MC at weddings and parties. In addition I also entertain my family and friends on the guitar.
LK: Back to “Selako Ntambe”. When was it formed?
VM: In 2006. It was earlier called “Chibogesob” acronym from the pioneers Chibale Boyd, Gershom Musonda and Bwalya Kazungo.
LK: How did you get to join the group?
VM: One day I was invited Gershom to the group’s rehearsal at the Kitwe Little Theatre. During that visit I suggested a number of points to the crew that would spice the show and to my surprise they accepted all my contributions. From that day I was co-opted in the group as a writer and later on took up the role of director of programs during performances and later on started participating as an actor and standup comedian. At some point I suggested to the team that we needed to have a catchy name for the group and that is how we settled for “Selako Ntambe” till to this day
LK: What’s the composition of the team been like over the years?
VM: The group started with Boyd Kaimbi Chibale, Gershom Musonda, and Bwalya Kazungo before I, Amy Nkonjera, Christabel Kayula and Solomon Simwawo joined in. Later Boyd, Amy and Christabel left. The current members are Gershom Musonda, Jimmy Chibowa Lungu, Kazungo, Solomon Simwawo and new entrants Christabel Ngosa, Lulu Nsalange, Matildah Mumba and Innocent Mwewa.
LK: Who writes the sketches and plays?
VM: Gershom Musonda and I are the writers mostly from ideas generated the group members during our monthly creative session meetings.
LK: Who produced and marketed the Selako Ntambe debut DVD and how did it fare on the market?
VM: We released the DVD in 2007 produced under TSEM SACH Studios owned Samson Kabange and Lucas Zulu, of course not to forget the financial and logistics support from Godwin Chibanda proprietor of Goddysaurus Music Studios. The support from the Zambian people was overwhelming. I would say the DVD project was a great success.
LK: How did you combat piracy?
VM: As for piracy, I will be honest; I never got to see pirated Selako Ntambe DVDs. Thanks to our distributors Morgan Ice and Doug-Arts Productions for ensuring that the product was well protected where piracy was concerned.
LK: In the DVD you effectively portray “Bana Musonda”, that pompous cell phone addicted lady. Could that be your favorite role?
VM: (LoL)…I remember that role very well. It was interesting to portray a female character though very challenging. I remember I had to do my home work through observing how different women from different social circles behave. I can say that that role was interesting and I enjoyed it. With time and years going I have found myself enjoying more of standup comedy than comical play acting.
LK: Your other interesting comical act was that of mimicking the late President Levy Mwanawasa and you did it so well. Are you still into mimicry?
VM: Yes. I enjoyed that too but I dropped the act out of principle and respect when he passed on. I’ve never done such mimics since then.
LK: In recent times comedy has soared to greater heights compared to conventional theatre. What’s your view on this?
VM: After a hard day’s work we always want to relax at some point and loosen up. Comedy comes in as the right antidote to remove stress. Hence laughter is the best medicine and more and more people are now partaking in this legal drug. Not to take away the credit from conventional theatre, I think we have seen a decline in play productions. Could be that we have lost icons in that area or producers for such productions are few and limited or maybe the platform for conventional theatre has deteriorated.
LK: Sometime back you participated in a highly publicized comedy contest on TV where the prize was a vehicle. Surprisingly this contest ended abruptly. Any idea why?
VM: I am not in the position to comment on that, but all I can say is that the show was well organized and I enjoyed being part of it. What ever happened along the way is not for public sharing. I hope and trust some day in future similar comedy contests will spring up.
LK: What’s your comment on the emergence and sudden disappearance of both the NAC Ngoma and Copperbelt’s Mukuba Awards? I recall you once hosted these events as a Master of Ceremonies.
VM: I would rather comment on the role I played as MC at the functions. It was a great honor to have been picked to anchor such big events. We all look forward to the day both awards will resurrect and assist in uplifting the arts in Zambia.
LK: How best could the Ministry of Tourism and Arts help elevate the status of the Arts and artists in Zambia?
VM: The creation of a ministry was a gigantic achievement for Zambian arts and artists. In my opinion the Government can go a step further to separate the two into two distinct ministries so that independently artists can have a ministry specifically looking at their affairs.
LK: What’s Selako Ntambe’s take on the participation of women in the arts, particularly comedy where they’ve not fared that well?
VM: To start with I do not agree that women have not fared well in comedy. From my early days to-date I believe women have played a major role in the success of the comedy industry in Zambia. What I see generally is that we do not recognize or rather give them the respect and status they deserve as comedians. Take a look at all the major comedy groups in Zambia, it is evident they have women as part of the membership. What I would like to see is many women attempting to do stand-up comedy like the new Luanshya lady we’ve unearthed at Selako Ntambe.
LK: Who is that one? Could you tell us more about her.
VM: The lady goes the stage name Sekanayo – Miss Mfula. She has been exceptional in her performances. Recently she performed with Selako Ntambe team at Kitwe Little Theatre and received a lot of support from the audience. She’s also performed at the divas comedy show in Lusaka; at Chingola Arts Society and she is earmarked to perform at the first ever comedy festival in Zambia this coming March 2018. The festival will be staged at Lusaka Playhouse. She has managed to fit in well in the comedy industry.
LK: That’s great! Any big “Selako” projects lined up for 2018 and beyond?
VM: I believe the best of Selako Ntambe comedy is yet to come and talking about projects, yes, we are pushing to stage more performances across Zambia and we hope to go a step further and unleash another DVD entitled The Comedy Exodus in due course. We are still working on it. We are not in a rush, reason being that we want to take time and bake the product to the people’s taste and satisfaction. Our line of thinking is that our projects should always beat past project performance and you know the first project set a high bar and we cannot afford to drop it. So to all the fans out there: be patient something extraordinary is definitely coming your way.
LK: Last (but not the least) … a word to fellow artists and comedy fans?
- To my fellow artists, we need to be affiliated to recognized institutions and speak as one voice. Organization is a key element for Zambian artists through established institutions. Artists need to believe that it is possible to earn a living through art and that we can contribute to national coffers through artistic activities. To the comedy fans … We live art; we live comedy, lets breath while laughing.