Onechi Lwenje is an international actor and writer based in Zambia.
His star has seen steady growth from his television debut in a Zambian awareness TV commercial about HIV/AIDS in 1999. He has gone on to appear in numerous prime time commercials for international corporates in the telecom and banking sectors. He has also given his talent toward national causes such as appearing in voter sensitization commercials in the country of Zambia.
His dramatic acting career has seen him performing roles in award winning series and feature films such as Love Games (2014 Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards winner ‘Best Series/Comedy’) , Guilt (2014 Zambia Film Television and Radio Awards winner Best Movie/Best Cinematography/Best Editing) and most recently Zambezi Magic flagship series Fever. Onechi is also an accomplished writer who has been Editor of multiple magazines servicing a diverse spectrum of readers. He commenced features article writing in 2010 for Zambia’s then-flagship magazine, Nkhani Kulture. In 2013 he went on to become Deputy Editor for the in-flight magazine of international airline, Proflight, Nkwazi. He moved on to perform the role of Editor-in-Chief in industry specific publications that focused on the agricultural and mining sectors, such as ‘Agri-Pro’ and ‘Zambian Mining’ respectively, while also being honored with prestigious assignments such as authoring the official biography of the City of Lusaka for its centenary celebrations. He has also conducted high profile interviews with international luminaries such as Emeli Sande. He is the current Editor of Nkwazi In-Flight magazine.
Onechi broke barriers by becoming one of the first Zambians to appear on US network television when he hosted an episode of documentary series ‘My Africa’ on The Africa Channel, entitled ‘My Lusaka’. Onechi also manages to squeeze being a poet into his personal time and is currently preparing to publish his first anthology of compositions. The ideal of service to the human family remains the driving force behind his personal and professional growth. “I am always contemplating the state of global unity, particularly what kind of world we are making and leaving for our youth. I hope through my work to be an agent of positive change and inspiration for generations.”
KAPA187: You have been acting for some time now, having been in TV series such as ‘Love Games’ , movies such as ‘Guilt’ , various TV commercials and most recently the Zambezi Magic TV series ‘Fever’ . What first made you decide to pursue acting?
ONECHI LWENJE: It’s like asking the ant why it builds its hill or asking a newborn baby why it takes its first breath. I was born to do it. And if you think about it, we’re all born to be performers. From school assembly to board meetings, religious and traditional ceremony, it’s almost as if human beings muse on the meaning of our existence in performance.
KAPA187: ‘Fever’ has become wildly popular in a short amount of time. How did you become part of the cast?
ONECHI LWENJE: I actually got a call from my very good friend Zodwa Khumalo, letting me know about some auditions being held. If you know anything about acting, you know that auditions are nerve-wracking. But I attended anyway and I guess the rest is history. I must say that we were all blown away by the overwhelming response from the fans of Fever. It’s very humbling and nothing anyone who worked on the project takes for granted.
KAPA187: For those who have not yet watched ‘Fever’, tell us about your character Fletcher.
ONECHI LWENJE: Fletcher is a young man at a turning point in his life where adolescence turns into manhood. He thinks he has life figured out, with a best friend and a fixed routine. All that starts to crumble when the events of season 01 begin. For the first time he’s confronted with the perceived absolutes of his convictions. Is there really such a thing as right choices? Or does every choice we make lead us to the manifestation of our destiny? These questions form the basis of his fascinating conflict.
KAPA187: The Zambian Film industry is growing at a seemingly slow pace. Do you feel it is heading in the right direction and what measures do you think need to be taken to bring it up to the next level?
ONECHI LWENJE: In all fairness Hollywood has had a 100-year plus advantage of being on the cutting edge with technology. Quite alright Zambia’s rich history in film dates back to 1935 with the first colonial movies being produced here, but our development has been limited to the confines of our economy’s growth. Film technology is expensive, but thankfully the world has changed and now equipment is fairly affordable and the avenues for distribution have also flourished. I believe this is the reason behind the recent ‘sudden’ boost in content and productions. There is still a lot of growing and learning to do, but we are on course to having an established film industry in a few years.
KAPA187: You hosted an episode of a documentary series on US network television channel ‘The Africa Channel’. Tell us what it was about and how it felt to be given such a platform.
ONECHI LWENJE: Amazing honor, privilege, but also huge responsibility. I was given carte blanche to select the places we would film. You have to understand that for most of the American, European and Caribbean audience, this would be their first and only ever glimpse of Zambia. I wanted a fair mix that left a lasting, positive impression of our beautiful nation. In the digital age where everyone has a smartphone and is on a social network, we have all become ambassadors of our country to the world. I took this responsibility of helping build a positive brand for Zambia very seriously. And fortunately, after it aired we received positive feedback from as far as Denmark, Haiti and the US government. A portion of the episode is available to view online.
KAPA187: Apart from acting you are also a writer and editor for a number of magazines. What is your favorite topic to write about?
ONECHI LWENJE: I believe very strongly in allowing the teams I get the privilege of working with to write on topics they’re passionate about and interested in. I enjoy telling human stories and servicing my readers by discovering new perspectives on things they may already be familiar with. I recall the chance I got to interview Pompi and tell his story of how he came to be a gospel artist. He’s a great guy and we later received feedback of how people came to give their lives to Christ after being inspired by his story that I was able to tell. That’s what an artist lives for. To be able to transform a soul through art.
KAPA187: Being the current editor of Proflights in-flight magazine, Nkawzi, in what way do you help to promote Zambia to foreign and local tourists who often use that airline?
ONECHI LWENJE: As part of a team, the mandate is always showing the tourism and business potential of Zambia. Proflight has grown into an international airline, flying into South Africa and Malawi. It has made great strides in connecting Zambia with the introduction of a direct flight to Mbala in the horizon so, once again, it’s about building a positive brand for Zambia, a responsibility every Zambian citizen shares. Nkwazi In-flight magazine does have a vibrant Facebook page which you can follow today.
KAPA187: The number of local magazines has increased in the recent past. As more and more people are getting their information and entertainment from online platforms, what do you think local magazines need to do to retain their readers?
ONECHI LWENJE: This question actually applies to the publishing industry worldwide. I believe it is about staying abreast with the times.
KAPA187: Talent VS education. In the creative fields of acting, writing, performing etc. Do you think talent is enough to make you successful? If one is not particularly talented in an area but they acquire a lot of knowledge about it, would they in turn be successful at it?
ONECHI LWENJE: Art is really about expression. Book knowledge can only compliment the act of picking up a brush, a pen or a camera and actually doing something with it. The talent myth is strong and makes some complacent, but someone who trains hard can come to surpass even the most talented. The gold standard is when incredible talent meets dedication to training and improvement. Then you get Michael Jackson. Then you get Beyoncé. Then you get Sidney Poitier. This only comes about by training, training and more training. Self-improvement comes from dedication and not mere dreams alone.
KAPA187: Do you have any upcoming projects that your fans would be interested in knowing about?
ONECHI LWENJE: I am excited about a fun new web series I have created, called “The Adventures of Duncan Hollywood: Rise of a Zambian Superstar.” It follows a fictional character named ‘Duncan Hollywood’, who is trying to make it in the Zambian film industry as an actor, but there’s a catch. Duncan can’t act and everyone around him knows this except him.The hilarious drama is loosely inspired by the real-life experiences of myself and others within the Zambian film industry. The show is structured as an audio drama that builds up to a scene the audience can watch on Youtube.
You can listen to weekly episodes here;
You can watch how those episodes end here;
Or to make it simple, just Like and follow my Page www.facebook.com/onechi
KAPA187: Tell us a fun fact about yourself that not many people know.
ONECHI LWENJE: I’m not Nigerian. Despite my exotic-sounding name, I’m Zambian. Tumbuka from Lundazi on both sides. My name actually means “What have you seen” in Tumbuka.
KAPA187: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years.
ONECHI LWENJE: I have one goal. And that is to see the realization of a viable Zambian film industry. To give a simple illustration, I want someone who studies carpentry to be able to work full time building film sets, be able to provide for his wife and kids and retire with a pension. In 5 years’ time, I expect to be closer to realizing that dream of providing economic opportunities for fellow Zambians.
KAPA187: Any last words.
ONECHI LWENJE: Art and its various mediums of expression must be appreciated in every culture for it to thrive. Imagine your life without a song, a dance, or the escapism your favorite film or television program provides. In the film space, Zambians have demonstrated through content such as Kabanana, Love Games and Fever that, if supported, we can provide high quality entertainment for the people of Zambia, Africa and the World. But it can only be accomplished together. Thank you for the amazing support you have given so far. I believe strongly that the best work is yet to come. You can follow my journey to that day. Subscribe by texting “ONECHI” to 660 to receive a special voice mail from me on a daily basis. Exclusive to MTN. Do it today.
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