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‘Department of Museums, not a hub of old stuff only’

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Museums have for a long time been labelled places where old stuff is kept but that notion needs to change as museums are now embracing technology, Director of Museums and Monuments, Elizabeth Gomani Chindebvu, said on Friday.

Chindebvu made the remarks at Chichiri Museum in Blantyre during the launch of the proverb inspired art exhibition ‘Art for Instilling Values’.

“Museums, besides being centres of research and informal education, are places where technological advances are displayed so that even the common person can have access to them,” Chindebvu said.

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She said the launch of the temporal exhibition, to run for over six months, is a testimony of an innovation where oral traditions have been translated into pieces of art that everyone, especially the youth, can access and that this can also promote cultural tourism.

She also said that, as informal education centres, museums need to have at least two temporally exhibitions annually.

“This will entice more visitors to the museum and therefore reach out to more people than is the case currently,” Chindebvu said.

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And true to her words, museums in the country need to rebrand and be creative with their services if they are to attract people, including the younger generation, which is more obsessed with technology.

Chindebvu said, with the reforms that have enabled the birth of the Department of Museums and Monuments, they plan to increase the frequency of the temporally exhibitions.

She said the official launch of the exhibition is one activity under ‘The Promo t ion and Conservation of Natural Cultural Heritage’ programme implemented with funding from the Royal Norwegian government.

Chindebvu said the first agreement was implemented from 2003 to 2006 followed by two renewals and that this is the third phase.

“We are grateful to Royal Norwegian government for the support and the main objective of this activity is to preserve Malawi’s rich oral tradition, through interpretation of existing traditional proverbs through visual arts in form of drawings, paintings, sculptures and various other forms of art,” Chindebvu said.

In the project, artists had to freeze the proverbs provided into artworks based on the themes such as those of promoting good security, proverbs describing greed, promoting unity, self-reliance and independence, promoting hard work and HIV/Aids prevention.

Chindebvu, however, admitted that the project has just tapped on the surface and that there is a lot t to be done.

Chief Director in the Ministry of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development, Martin Kadzuwa, speaking on behalf of Minister Grace Chiumia, said the exhibition had come at the right time as it coincided with the International Museum Day, which falls on May 18 every year.

The theme for this year is ‘Hyper Connected Museums: New Approaches, New Publics’.

The event was spiced up by activities which came from, among others, students and Chichiri Cultural Troupe.

Random interviews with some of the students indicated they were satisfied with what Department of Museums and Monuments had done and that they are eager to learn different proverbs.

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