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Artists bemoan lack of funding to arts sector

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Artists through Film Association of Malawi (Fama) President Ezaius Mkandawire have presented some of the key areas that needs government intervention to the Ministry of Finance Joseph Mwanamvekha.

This follows a call for various stakeholders by Mwanamvekha to present their views as part of the pre-budget consultative meeting done through emails and other online channels due to Covid-19 pandemic. In the document, which The Daily Times has seen, the creatives have indicated lack of funds as one of the main challenges impeding the growth of the sector.

“Government has underfunded the sector. It goes without mention that there is no development funding the arts and cultural products and services.

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Malawi remains among the only countries without government sponsored cultural outlets,” reads the document which was presented on April 30 2020. Mkandawire observed that there were no government funded festivals, galleries and theatres among others. “The industry suffers lack of recognition from financial lending institutions and access to quality production and marketing services.

Financial institutions in the country generally view investment in the creative sector as both risky and mere speculation,” he said.

Some of the key areas that the creatives have highlighted in their submission that needs intervention and strategic repositioning include establishing institutional structures for levies, grants and business startups.

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“It is crucial to consider that most of the artists in the country are still in the informal sector,” reads the submission. The other key areas are infrastructure development for the sector which looks at modern and mega national arts performing arena, operationalise the use of Blantyre Cultural Centre (BCC), National Art Gallery and National Arts Theatre.

The creatives have in their submission, also spoken on establishing and supporting effective marketing, promotional and distribution systems for arts and culture to include measures for government to support cultural groups to various international events.

“In our submission, we are also looking at capacity building – skills development for the sector and so, we are looking at National Arts Academy project, developing curricula for culture specific programmes in some tertiary education programmes,” Mkandawire said.

Mkandawire also revealed that School for the Arts, which he described as the biggest single investment in the creative sector by the government, has for two years gone without funding despite it being included in the Public Sector Investment Programme.

He said they were hoping for the best from the government in terms of adopting some of their programmes.

“But all these issues can be made possible through one major action, adequate resourcing of a National Arts Council and related fund. We also urge the government to back up its commitment to international treaties and conventions in culture by devising a plan that it can follow,” the Fama president said.

Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Francis Phiso, recently admitted that they needed to do more to uplift the creative sector and said the government was committed to do that.

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