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Dreaming in colour for creative sector

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USI—I know where it is now

The creative sector has for a long time played second fiddle to other disciplines and has not been taken seriously. No wonder, it operates without an Arts Council.

The creative industry has produced massive talent, some of which has gone on to fly the country’s flag high.

But despite the several success stories in disciplines such as theatre, music, visual arts, poetry and writing among others, there is little that has been done to grow it.

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The sidelining of the industry has also been noticed through poor funding, which is given to the Department of Arts, which is in the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife.

The past governments have failed to breathe life to the creative industry and now artists look forward with hope that things will work with the current government led by President Lazarus Chakwera.

Artists were further given smiles last year when renowned comedian and actor Michael Usi popularly known as Manganya was appointed Minister of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife.

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After assuming office Usi promised that he would do everything within his powers to make sure that the creative sector gets the respect it deserves.

Usi has made strides pushing works in the ministry in all the areas of tourism, culture and wildlife but he still has a long way to go to bring light at the end of the tunnel.

With the creative sector calling for the establishment of the Arts Council which is long overdue, Usi assured artists on Tuesday that the Arts Council will be establishment for the industry to start receiving subvention among others.

Another issue that artists have looked forward to it being solved is the refurbishment of the Blantyre Cultural Centre (BCC) formerly French Cultural Centre.

The once mighty entertainment mecca is still in a pathetic state having been ransacked by thieves in 2011.

The government bought the centre which has hosted top artists including Mali’s Salif Keita at K300 million but has failed to refurbish the centre in time with operations moving at a snail’s pace.

Promises have been made but up to now the progress is slow.

The amphitheater is yet to be refurbished and so are the other areas although the auditorium and some offices have worn a new face.

Usi has made visits to BCC a number of times and at one-time he told the media that he was embarrassed with the centre.

Asked on the progress, Usi said as a minister and an artist, he would want the centre to get back to its old glory and even more and start hosting events every weekend.

“This government is committed to its promises, the biggest challenge that we have and I will keep on saying it is that we have a problem as regards human attitude towards work,” Usi said.

He said through BCC, he wants to see to it that artists hold workshops, network and hold events.

“Youth should be making money through BCC once we open it and again, it is not only BCC but we are also looking at the amphitheater in Lilongwe which needs to be functional,” the minister said.

He said that he personally approached Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu and that he gave him a figure of K96 million to pay the contractor for the refurbishment.

“This was not part of the budget but I did ask the Minister of Finance to be considered and he understood it. But as I indicated, the focus should be on civil servants for us to move forward. The money was released but delays keep on being made,” he said.

Usi could not say when the refurbishment of BCC will finalise.

“We will push. We know arts associations also want to occupy some of the offices in there but we cannot bring them in when the works are not yet finalised. For now, let them wait but we will accommodate them,” he said.

With artists still waiting as to when they will perform at a beautiful BCC and be reminded of the exploits of arts geniuses such as Du Chisiza Jr, Usi said he is also looking forward to the day he will stage his performance.

Usi said all will be well in the industry and that once the situation normalises as regards the pandemic, there will be progress in a number of projects.

It remains to be seen as to whether Usi will manage to bring smiles to the family of fellow artists as soon as possible and start enjoying some of the fruits, and that includes the establishment of the Arts Council.

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