Fare-thee well Mlagiri Kopoka

Friday February 16 2018


By Peter Muthamia

Humour writing is not taught in any college or university I have ever heard of. It is inherent in the writer. The style could be simple, drawing memories of childhood or even an abstract place like an office. Humour writers always conceptualise issues and lay them bare to the readers who in turn, synthesize them and relate them to the real life experiences.

Being able to transpose the reader to the different scenes in the narrative, reliving real life experiences in cynical tone, and sometimes satirizing very serious issues to make the reader laugh is the work of a fine humourist. Mlagiri Kopoka was a good humourist.

I have been an avid follower of his Musings column, which was later changed to be Bar Gossip in the Friday Citizen Newspaper. The contextual approach of the humourist espoused simple lifestyle of a regular bar and things that happen inside those drinking holes.

Like in his column dated May, 8, 2016. He vividly brought to the fore the fact that barmaids are smarter than us (men) in his discourse with a barmaid at Mama D’s bar - humourously.

I admit that the late Kopoka formerly the author of this column and a lecturer at St. Augustine University was not very closely attached to me as a person but his column was. The reason is that most humour columnists are known by the bylines on their stories much more than they are known on a personal level to a point where readers are absolutely attached to the writer.

Through his column, readers were able to see through life in another prism – through a tongue-in-the-cheek and a not-so-serious outlook that lacks in newspaper writing. With his column that was no doubt funny, yet simple, he created his own distinct rhythm for our Friday newspaper magazine readers.

The column was sensibly funny or better still; it promised what I describe as “quiet” laughter to the reader as opposed to “laughing out loud”. That seemed entirely plausible. In any case, hard news and features are so “serious” and it is an undisputable fact that anything written with a light touch would make reading palatable.

Here, for example, is how he described his rounds in Mwanza scenes at Mama D’s drinking joint, “on daladalas, bodaboda and drinking cronies, sycophants who do not buy a drop of beer but would happily swallow what other men bought.”

His column was special as a resident of the “Rock City” Mwanza where he drew the settings of his column.

His humour stories had different worldview. I have learnt from his humour the art of simplicity and unassuming style of writing and I guess, his other followers did the same.

His column was a clear picture of an almost crumbling society, full of terrifyingly uncertain different day-to-day characters and a struggling, downtrodden citizen. This column and its readers will greatly miss the touch of a good writer that Mlagiri Kopoka was.