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Breathing life into the creative sector

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The creative sector has suffered a lot in the country although strides are being made.

Unlike in other countries where artists are benefiting from their sweat let alone being used as ambassadors by the corporate world, it is a different story in country.

The creative world is such an important sector in other countries and has played a significant role in development as well as driving departments such as tourism.

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Malawi still lags behind as far as tourism is concerned and this is so because the creative world has been sidelined and not given its rightful place to help propel tourism.

“Whenever we talk about the creative world, to some it sounds like its nothing but all about entertainment and fun but this is the sector that can help drive a lot of things. We have festivals which have been instrumental in creating income for the government and the corporate world and yet it gets little attention,” said Lucius Banda commonly known as Soldier, who with his Impakt Events will be hosting the Sand Music Festival from October 28 to October 30.

And things have even become tougher for artists in the country with the advancement of technology where piracy has become rampant such that artists find their works already on the market before they release them.

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There is some light at least following the passing in Parliament of the Copyright Bill which has stiffer penalties.

Such is the life for an artist in the country where there is still no Arts Council and many of the arts associations are running like briefcase organisations in the absence of funding.

Many of the arts associations have in the past been relying heavily on Cultural Support Scheme driven by Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) and funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy.

But this funding ends in December, 2016 and this development will surely affect many associations’ operations although there is still hope in the Cultural Fund which was launched in May.

Unlike in the past where artists such as musicians had a proper distribution system through such platforms like OG Issa in selling their music, it is total chaos these days where many have resorted to selling their music on their own.

But with several problems on the ground and artists losing hope which has seen others even chickening out and trying other careers, there are some projects being carried out aimed at uplifting the creative sector.

One such project is the Arts Production and Marketing Cooperative Limited (APMC).

Cosoma through funding from government is implementing Integrated Arts Development Projects.

The project according to Business Executive Isaac Chingota, the project has four main components among, which is the establishment of the Arts Production and Marketing Cooperative.

But what is APMC is all about?

Chingota said APMC is a profession-based organisation of creative artists operating in Malawi, with a vision of growing the country’s creative industries through provision of quality creation, production, distribution and promotion services that will enable artists grow their creative enterprises.

He said the company’s shareholding is made up of arts associations.

“The need to have the Arts Production and Marketing Cooperative comes against a background of the absence of an effective system to assist artists produce, market and distribute quality artistic products and services,” Chingota said.

He said in the absence of such a system the creative industry has been struggling to compete and break international markets.

Furthermore, Chingota said the growing rates of piracy, have even made the problem worse as pirates are able to reproduce and make available illegitimate copies easily, hence robbing the artist of the much needed income generated from his or her works.

“Arts Production and Marketing Cooperative ultimately seeks to positively impact on the creation, production and distribution process for artistic works regardless of their method of presentation so that artists make substantial economic gains from their works,” he said.

Chingota insisted that the organisation is not a duplicate of other arts organisations which have come up and failed to bring any change.

He added that the organisation seeks to improve the welfare of all artists in Malawi in all fields – music, theatre, poetry, visual and literary arts.

How will the company operate?

Chingota said the company will focus on both social and entrepreneurial activities.

“The company will run a number of businesses on behalf of the artists. The first business lines will be audio and audio-visual reproduction services, online multimedia business for music, books, photos and many others,” he said.

On social entrepreneurship, Chingota said the company will; together with the arts Sacco and other relevant organisations spearhead the establishment of artist cooperatives as one way of promoting entrepreneurship among the artists.

Recently gospel musician Gloria Manong’a, who is part of the team spearheading the arts sacco said this was an initiative they were selling to artists so that they develop a saving culture.

“A lot of artists have difficulties in saving money and so through the arts sacco we want them to develop the habit of saving and we are happy that many are coming and many are benefiting in terms of loans but we want more to join,” Manong’a said.

Chingota said at the moment they are in the process of setting up an audio and audio-visual duplication facility that will be making available original Malawian products.

He also said that they will be establishing a content aggregation business starting with online selling of Malawian arts.

“In the near future we would like to facilitate development of arts cooperative dedicated to ensuring quality production and distribution of Malawian artworks. In conjunction with other relevant authorities,” he said.

Chingota said the company will benefit artists as it would give them a system that is owned by themselves to, produce, reproduce, distribute and market their products.

“In future we would like to diversify into other businesses that incorporate the other arts disciplines. However these are the first business lines. We further look to establishing foreign markets for Malawian artists,” Chingota said.

He said the main difference with other arts bodies on the ground is that it is a business that is owned by the artist themselves and that it seeks mainly to ensure that the artist is able to make optimum gains from his/her works.

“We call on all Malawians especially the artists to support this initiative as it will have great bearing on the management and growth of the creative sector in the country,” Chingota said.

He said the company has a board of directors whose current chairperson is Film Association of Malawi (Fama) President Ezaius Mkandawire.

“We are serious with this company. We are not here just to make noise but we want to minimise the challenges facing the creative industry. We want to put the creative industry back to its position and we want to put smiles on the faces of artists so that they benefit from their sweat,” he said

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