An interview will always allow for a revelation of some sort, a fact, an idea, a thought or state of being. It’s the occupational hazard of any writer. This interview didn’t fall short on any of those scores. For starters, it began with a lesson in geo-politics, then it ventured into a philosophical articulation on architecture and even some unexpected tips on how to deal with ADD.
Instead of getting into detailed prose that will only scratch the surface of the thoughts behind the subject, an extraction of some of his prolific and introspective statements during the interview seemed much more compelling…
“…My one reader…” that’s the interjection you will encounter frequently in Mwansa Ndemi Mbewe’s blog – Journey in Cyprus. It’s the only time he will break away from his fierce, opinionated and well constructed perspective to address what he believes to be the sole reader of his blog.
“I don’t believe in the save-the-world mentality. I am not one to think that everyone is hanging on to my every word as a solution to a global crisis. If only one person reads my blog then I am grateful, hence my constant reference to my ‘one reader’”.
Mwansa is studying architecture at the Cyprus International University in Northern Cyprus. Wait… isn’t it just Cyprus?
“Actually, the Republic internationally recognised as Cyprus is one half of two regions whose control has been debated over for the better half of the last century by Turkey and Greece. The North, where I am, is controlled by Turkey and the south by Greece. When people refer to Cyprus, they are actually referring to the much more popular south. I am in the much less known North. I like it here”.
With its sprawling mountain ranges and deep blue sea, Northern Cyprus is not too shabby a place to experience the Mediterranean charm but Mwansa says he wouldn’t live there permanently, he has his eye set on a different kind of open and vast landscape.
“I am not going to build someone else’s country, I want to come back and build Zambia, so, I know where I am going when I am done with my studies”.
Needless to say, there is no shortage of thoughts that are under construction in Mwansa’s mind but there are a few things that he always returns to; his love of design, form and functionality and how to exploit it for Zambia.
“The three steps to solving a design problem is to look at what’s there, what’s not there and what you need to put there. A lot of Zambians skip Step One and stop at Step Two. Because we skip Step One we fail to appreciate the progress that has already been made. We see what’s not there and just see problems not progress. I’m not saying there has been exponential progress everywhere but if there is progress then there is hope and a future. If we can sort out Steps One and Two then simple arithmetic gets us to Step Three, it won’t even take geniuses to start solving the problems because we will be able to see them and solve them in our own little ways”.
One of Mwansa’s solutions is the “15 buildings project”. It’s an idea, or rather, a mission to rekindle an appreciation for some of the iconic buildings in Zambia. Most of which are crumbling in a state of disrepair. It saddens Mwansa that the old State House in Chilenje is not treated like the national landmark it is. There is a list of buildings that he would like to restore. He believes this will allow Zambians to stop seeing the gaps in the design and construction landscape of the country but start seeing the opportunities and even the treasures.
“The aim of the 15 buildings project is to help push Step One forward. To show people that our buildings are built well in terms of aesthetics and function. Good design isn’t just in other countries, it is in Zambia as well and we walk past it everyday without giving it its dues or praising the brilliant men and women who put it there. I will be the guy on the corner of the street shouting ‘look over there! It’s been right there for years’”.
With the conviction and belief in Mwansa’s voice it is evident that one day, very soon, he will be on that street corner.
Its not surprising that the need for mental stimulation is something that Mwansa battles with constantly – side effects of having a mind that is always in search of the perfect design solution. However, he has some tried and tested remedies for his condition.
At this point the novelty of someone asking him questions has worn off and he is ready to move on. He has a very good book he wants to read, some Scandanavian hand-made chairs to admire and a short South African film ‘Uthando’ he wants to watch. The task to keep the astute mind of Mwansa occupied continues.
Name: Mwansa Ndemi Mbewe
Current location: Lefkosa, Nicosia, Northern Cyprus.
Preferred location: Lusaka, Zambia
Occupation: Fulltime student of architecture at the Cyprus International University, part time blogger with strong views on practically every subject and a constant afro-optimist.
Visit Mwansa’s blog at: http://journeyincyprus.blogspot.com