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An eye for children

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LIKONGWE —It is crucial to introduce drama targeting children

Children and young people should be given platforms if their talents are to grow.

This is one of the reasons some theatre practitioners on Wednesday announced the birth of Assitej Malawi with the aim of promoting theatre works for young people.

Assitej stands for International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People (Association Internationale du Théâtre de l’Enfance et la Jeunesse) and was established in 1965 as an international alliance of professionals involved in theatre for children and young people.

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Assitej Malawi joins this international platform where there are 83 national centres globally.

Assitej facilitates worldwide access and the exchange of ideas and cultural traditions for professionals involved in theatre for children and young people.

Youthful playwright and actor Fumbani Phiri, said on Wednesday that with Assitej Malawi, there is something big coming in terms of growing theatre as well as looking at young people and children.

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“It is common practice that, when creating theatre products for the public, the focus is usually on adult audiences and children are left out in many cases. We need children to be encouraged to watch theatre by showcasing their talents,” Phiri said.

With a steering committee led by veteran dramatist and lecturer Smith Likongwe, Assitej Malawi is geared to give young people and children a voice in theatre as well as art in general saying young people are the future of various artistic disciplines.

“We need to build from grassroots just as its done in sports. If we can nurture talent at a young age then you are assured of having a very good team of art players that would give nothing but quality work having gone through phases,” Phiri said.

Likongwe, who has been in the creative industry for years and written several plays as well as worked with several young people, said he was excited that they have Assitej Malawi on the ground now.

“It is crucial to introduce drama targeting children because, as they grow, they grasp the real importance of drama in terms of positive influence,” the veteran dramatist said.

Likongwe said children’s theatre is beyond Sunday school performances of crucifixion but also allows adults to create special productions such as pantomimes for children.

“Poetry, puppetry as well as other traditional elements of storytelling, song and dance get inculcated in the children. To include children, one of the projects shall be to train children how to tell their own stories and therefore eventually graduating into playwriting at their own level,” he said.

With Assitej Malawi being born, Likongwe said it should not be assumed that they have funds from any source.

“What is crucial is we have started and little by little we shall take care of the rest but in all this, we want to build theatre for children and give children a chance to come out and at the same time unearth talent,” he said.

Recently artist Reuben Salima said the country has talent but many of the young people and children do not have platforms to showcase their talents and that in the absence of art schools in the country many fail to upgrade.

“Many of us we operate on zero budgets and we have to be supported by our parents and this makes it difficult in terms of growth. If we can be supported with resources then things would be better. Again if we can have more art schools then we would have more quality works on the market,” Salima said.

It is only when parents support their children’s talents and not undermine that more children can believe in themselves and utilise their talents to the fullest.

When young people and children are given all the support as well as given access to platforms to showcase their talents, the creative industry would enjoy the best of works.

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