Blantyre Arts Festival gets low patronage
After a one-year break, the three-day Blantyre Arts Festival (Baf) was officially opened on Friday afternoon by Blantyre City Mayor, Wild Ndipo, at Blantyre Cultural Centre (BCC).
Baf was supposed to start with a carnival, from Old Town Hall in Blantyre to BCC, Friday morning, but it did not take place.
The eighth edition of the festival was initially expected to be opened by Minister of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development, Cecilia Chazama, but Baf Executive Director, Thom Chibambo, said Chazama could not make it due to other engagements; hence, it is Ndipo who opened the festival.
Expectations were high that a lot of people would patronise the event, buoyed by the fact that entry was free on the opening day. It was not to be, as low patronage became the sub-theme of the event, despite it having a number of exciting activities.
During the official opening, which was also graced by Germany Ambassador to Malawi, Juergen Borsch, the sizeable audience were treated to performances by students from different schools and Japanese Martial Arts Demonstration.
There were also performances from Chichiri Prison Cultural Troupe and Salvation Army.
Baf Chairperson of Board of Trustees, Alfred Msadala, said the festival has been in existence since 2009 and that they have registered modest growth.
Msadala was, however, quick to concede that economic forces have stood in their way.
“We are still struggling to have a home that would accommodate us in totality. We have always clung to Blantyre Cultural Centre even in its worst state of dilapidation,” Msadala said.
He emphasised that, this year, the theme is 100 percent local, hence the decision to settle for Black Missionaries as headliners.
“The question that may arise is, why does the programme include Masha and Arne, from Hannover, Germany. Hannover and Blantyre are twin cities. The cradle of this festival is through the relationship of the two cities and, to us, people that come from Hannover are 100 percent local,” Msadala said.
On Friday, the festival— which has made strides this year by, among other things, creating a market place where community members are selling different local foods and a drinking area—closed with an African fashion show exchange in the auditorium.
The fashion show brought the best of designs, and it was not surprising that they excited the audience. But, earlier on, there was a performance by opera singer Kika Mwamondwe.
On Saturday, there were also a lot of activities but the BCC organisers failed to keep time. Additionally, there was dryness for longer periods at some point before Kwathu Drama Group opened the proceedings in the afternoon.
The organisers also made the mistake of creating another stage close to the amphitheatre, which ended up not being friendly to artists.
The amphitheatre and the auditorium were not utilised fully on Saturday.
After watching poetry by the likes of Joseph Madzedze, Sylvester Kalizang’oma and presidential mimickers Aunt Geti and Mr Malawi, the festival turned to the created stage where things were still shaping up.
Performances by gospel acts delayed as the stage and the equipment were still being fixed.
The sound was not up to scratch but the sizeable audience that braved the wait enjoyed gospel vibes from, among others, Gloria Manong’a, Princess Chitsulo, Ethel Kamwendo Banda and Thocco Katimba.
Power shortage also haunted the performances and the organisers had to rely on a generator, which did not have enough power to drive both the lights and the equipment.
“This is a good festival with a variety of artistic events but there are shortfalls that the organisers need to look into. For instance, despite having a schedule, they failed to keep time,” Kwathu Drama Group Director, Eric Mabedi, said.
While BCC had shortfalls, the story was different at JCC, where activities went on smoothly.
Luc Deschamps, who is Jacaranda Foundation Director, said it was a fine outing for the festival at JCC, which was co-hosting the festival.
“We are thankful to Silvia Hesse and her team from Hannover, Germany, who sent us a container of professional sound equipment, a stage and lights. The container reached Jacaranda at 10am and German sound technicians— Tiro and Vivienne and team— were able to set it up for performances,” Deschamps said.
Some of the artists who performed at JCC on Saturday include Waliko Makhala, Snowden Ibbu and German artists Arne and Masha.
The festival was expected to end yesterday, with performances by, among others, Black Missionaries at BCC and poetry at JCC.
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