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Saturday, 3 November 2012

Flip, a flipping riveting read!

By Andrew Mulenga
Flip magazine, a much anticipated illustrated publication intended at being a cocktail of outright humour, traditional fables, political satire, short journalistic features and sport in that particular order of importance has been stores for a few weeks now.  
The front cover of Flip
magazine's first edition
It is called Flip because its authors aim at sharing: “the flipside of the official version of the ‘truth’ as we feel that there is more to the events and systems around us than the media has been able to tell us because media in our beloved Zambia is yet to be as free as we want it to be” reads part of the editor’s introductory remarks.
“We benefit from contributions of blossoming cartoonists writers and graphic artists providing a platform of free expression and debate to them and you, the reader”.
The glossy, full-colour, 32-page magazine’s No. 1 October 2012 issue features a caricature of President Michael Sata with a raised fist chanting the words “Donch remember” (don’t remember) on the cover, obviously suggesting that the president cannot remember any of his campaign promises.
The contents of the magazine are divided into a list of two, ‘regulars’ and ‘one-off’ features from wide-ranging contributors mainly cartoonists but it also features the rabblerousing political satirist and former Post Newspaper columnist Roy Clark popularly known as Kalaki.
The magazine kicks off with House Mouse; a full page comic strip with a Tom and Jerry style narrative, except it is not quite as funny, well at least not yet.
It is followed by two pages of Under the Bed; a story illustrated by Clement Nami and loosely based on late kalindula maestro PK Chishala’s hit 1980’s song Pole Pole which speaks of an evangelical pastor who was in fact a sorcerer in his free time.
The next two pages feature the very graphic Massacre at Paishuko which is basically the story of a massacre of members of Alice Lenshina’s Lumpa religious sect in 1964 told by Roy Clarke - a story avoided like the plague among Zambian journalists since the happenings themselves.
A clip from 'Donch-remember'
by Kiss, Kalaki and Chipepo
“On the morning of 7th August 1964 the village of Paishuko in Lundazi District was overrun by armed UNIP militants who massacred all forty-six unarmed and peaceful residents, men, women and children. Many of those who died had been cruelly tortured and mutilated before being horribly murdered. This is one event that is missing from our school history books”, writes Clarke in his first paragraph for one of the few non-humorous contribution in the magazine.
The article may not sit well with Dr Kenneth Kaunda’s admirers as Clarke points out that the Lumpa sect saw the imposition of the infamous State of Emergency that was to last 27 years providing Kaunda with a legal backbone to run a “police state”.
“With these powers Kaunda could circumvent the courts and lock up his perceived political opponents at his absolute discretion. This State of Emergency was finally lifted by Frederick Chiluba in November 1991,” Concludes Clarke. The story is as sombre as they come and features grisly images of massacred women and children as well as a rare yet delightful photo of smiling, young Alice Lenshina borrowed from John Hudson’s book A Time to Mourn (available in Bookworld stores). Clarke’s piece will make interesting reading for any devotee of history.
Clarke’s article is followed by the magazines attempt at an advice column, Ask Celestine that features a letter from a 16-year-old girl who has been stalking her father since she discovered he has a ‘secret’ sim-card that he is hiding from her mother that he uses to contact a younger girlfriend among other things.
Up next are two pages that feature a short story called The Curse of Baraba, a well-illustrated cartoon strip by Nasalifya Simpamba, with bold, voluptuous imagery and earthy colours that give the drawings a very distinctive African feel. The tale is of a young lady who suffers a curse and bears a name that can only be pronounced at the peril of him who utters it. Not the strongest of narratives, but definitely a good show of artistic talent.
This is followed by a very short black and white strip entitled Silent Movie, probably owing to the fact that it has no text to go with it, but it clearly examines child defilement, and has an anti-child abuse advertisement placed just below it. The work is not signed but it is evidently by the hand of Wisdom Fwati, a cartoonist based in Lusaka’s Mtendere compound.
Silent Movie is followed by The Wise Friend another two-page strip inspired by the moralizing African fables of oral tradition which discusses the importance of loyalty in friendship. The humanoid characters in this story have mask-like features that mimic popular African masks, in this case, the Chokwe masks of North Western Zambia. This strip too is full of character, once again executed with earthy colours and strong African imagery skilfully illustrated by London Kamwendo.
A clip from the cartoon strip The blue & white chronicals
by London Kamwendo
After a centrefold poster of Paul Ngozi and a fairly packed, one-page profile of the late Zambian rock star by Tembwe Kamima, Kamwendo returns with The Mystery of the Nyami-Nyami which tells the tale of the legendary river god of the Zambezi River and Kariba Dam. It features an intricately illustrated impression of the serpent-spirit and once again features mask-faced characters such as those featured in The Wise Friend.
The next page features Quick Flip Through Sport and an article titled How Old is A Footballer? by Sugar Edgar Musonda a Zambian based in Canada.
Apparently, Musonda is attempting to write about age fixing in soccer and lace it with humour, but it does not really seem to tickle the ribs. He could have gone the Clarke and Kamima route and should have just written something that is not trying too hard to be funny. It would have definitely worked, and being the winner of a UK Zambians Sports Administrator Award he is obviously good at what he does, if he puts his mind to it, better luck next time.
Nasalifya Simpamba of The Curse of Baraba returns with a typical Kalulu hare fable followed by London Kamwendo’s The Blue & White Chronicles, a hilarious three-page narrative of passenger and conductor relations that features a foulmouthed bus conductor who frequently bad mouths his passengers, something any Zambian commuter can relate to. This one provides for a hearty laugh yet involves very little text and coupled with digital colour editing by 2G Creative, its superb artistry is of international standards, it makes you wonder where such creative types have been hiding.
Next up is The Worthy Suitor, another Kalulu fable, this time by late cartoonist and social activist Davis Chapi who died early this year and was seen as a mentor among many up-coming cartoonists.
The magazine closes with a rib-tickling poke at politicians and their perceived failure to honour election promises. Donch-remember! by Kiss, Kalaki and Chipepo is obviously a swipe at republican president Michael Sata and his PF government citing what the authors perceive as an extension of the “90 days” election promise as well as u-turning on issues such as Barotse, the media freedom bill and Chinese investment.
As much as it is essentially experimental and has been made possible by the help of donors, for only K2,000,  flipping through Flip magazine one realises it makes  a flipping riveting read as you do not even notice you have reached the last page a few minutes after you started reading it. It is published by KBA Innovations, a media outfit headed by the very capable cartoonist Kiss Abrahams who is without doubt Zambia’s top caricaturist following the death of the celebrated Trevor Ford or Yuss (as he was fondly called), a mantle he is supposed to be sharing with the equally prodigious Angel Phiri who took up less comical responsibilities in senior management at Muvi TV. It is available in all leading book stores and supermarkets countrywide.  Zambian magazines are notorious for going under, and we have often been teased for not being a magazine country, regularly opting for glossier South African alternatives, let us hope times have changed and Flip is here to stay.  

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