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Breathing life into museums

MDF museum takes shape

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TAKING SHAPE—Usi interacts with personnel at the MDF Museum

Museums have not been given much needed attention in the country and this is why they remain old-fashioned, failing to attract people as is the case in other countries.

Most of the museums in the country have been taken as dumping grounds for old material and in this modern world, have failed to adjust to reach out to the people with modern and unique techniques.

Visual Arts Association of Malawi (Vaam) Vice President Gilbert Mpakule was one of the people, who expressed concern during a consultative meeting of artists with Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture Michael Usi, that there was need to breathe new life to museums in the country saying they were key in uplifting tourism in the country.

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Mpakule said he was surprised at the way other countries value their museums and that most of them are vibrant.

“Museums are hubs of knowledge, they are places that have the potential to make more money for the country, we need to get to that point where when people from outside visit the country, we should take them to our museums. I am not sure if that is the case, maybe a few museums in the country do that but most of them are not attractive at all,” he said.

Some artists also felt museums need to revisit their marketing strategies in terms of reaching out to the people with the things they have.

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Visiting museums in Blantyre, one at Mandala and another at Chichiri, one would only admire the historical things that are there but they have not been marketed to the world.

It is in this vein that Usi has taken up the drive to revive his ministry by connecting culture, wildlife and tourism saying the three needed to be on the same path and that they were beneficial to each other.

He said culture was key in uplifting tourism and that if the three were to be made vibrant then the country would be able to generate more and help in uplifting the economy.

“At the moment, we need to stop celebrating activities, let us celebrate achievements. We need to make sure that museums and other historical places in the country are vibrant and are able to attract tourists out there. People should be able to come to Malawi and visit our museums but we have to make them better,” Usi said.

The minister on Wednesday took time out to visit Military Museum in Zomba whose work is still in progress.

“It will be a fantastic museum. The museum ground among others will have a kids corner, coffee shop, souvenir shop and a number of things. This is all about giving it the modern style where people should be able to come and even get everything in one roof including food,” he said.

Usi said the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) Museum will tell the MDF history from pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial to democratic Malawi era.

“Military hardware dating from the colonial era will be displayed,” he said.

And just as he indicated that partners were willing to assist in different projects including the construction of the National Arts Academy, Usi, said the British were interested in the development of the museum as they were part of the MDF history.

“There is a lot that we have. Once displayed there will help in attracting people to the museum. Some of the arsenals to be displayed are those used by Yatuta Chisiza. It is not only him, there is more,” the minister said.

He said they will also look at other areas that people have spoken about that have potential in attracting tourists in the country.

Some quarters have had it that the country is sitting on gold as far as uplifting its economy without focusing on historical areas, museums and some of things that make Malawi.

“In South Africa for example, we have the Mandela House, where he used to stay and some of the things that he was using and the place is a tourist attraction.

A lot of people visit the place and yet it is a simple house with just a few things inside. Why can’t we do the same here? We have leaders like Kamuzu, who had lots of suits, Wilson hats which can always be displayed for people to see. If only we could be serious then tourism would be way up,” one of the artists, who did not want to be named, said.

Some staff members in museums have indicated that they have lots of programmes on the ground but some of them have failed to materialise due to inadequate funding.

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