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Expanding the creative industry

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There is immense talent in the country but, this talent has not been appreciated fully.

A lot has been said about developing the arts in the country but while other countries value the arts and have placed it as one of its strongholds in terms of helping propel the economy, it is a different story in Malawi.

This is why it has taken years for Malawi to approve the Cultural Policy and it is even taking ages to have the National Arts and Heritage Council although consultations have to be made.

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Many of the arts associations in the country are running without funding and others rely on the Cultural Support Scheme spearheaded by Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) with funding from Royal Norwegian Embassy.

Things have even been worse for the arts in the country as the Department of Culture, which has always been moved from one ministry to the other, does not get enough funding for its operations.

This is why up to now structures like the once mighty entertainment Mecca – Blantyre Cultural Centre which is surely a money spinner is still in a pathetic state.

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But while the creative industry is still trying to find its feet to stand out and shine in the country, it seems there are other well wishers who would want the industry to expand.

This is what brings us to the World Cultures Connect that seeing gaps in the creative industry in the country and Ethiopia decided to embark on workshops last year aimed at giving tools for the creative and cultural sectors to expand internationally.

Visiting Arts (UK), in partnership with The Africa Centre, based in South Africa, last year in November held the World Cultures Connect ‘Creative Skills’ training programme for arts practitioners which today has seen some of the country’s artists getting opportunities to attend the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland.

The artists attending the festival are Solomonic Peacocks director McArthur Matukuta and musician George Kalukusha.

The two got the opportunity following the creative skills training programme for artists and creative practitioners which was looking at nothing but to increase artists’ and creative practitioners’ awareness and knowledge of the platforms, tools and opportunities that exist for communicating and promoting their work to local and international audiences and partners.

“I am happy that after the workshop I was selected to attend the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland in August. It could have been better for all of us who attended the workshops to patronise this big festival. But all the same it will be another platform for learning and growing,” said Matukuta.

He said with the creative industry being sidelined in a lot of areas in the country, such platforms were the only way for artists to to the international market.

“There is a lot that we need to learn to develop professionally so it’s exciting to have such programmes so this platform will give me an opportunity to represent Malawi, meet different artists and organisers, sell the Easter Theatre Festival which did not take place this year due to funding and sell Malawi’s arts,” he said.

Matukuta said through the Culture Connect, they learnt more about marketing and business plans as well as the benefits of digital tools, networks and innovations.

Matukuta, whose Solomonic Peacocks has been involved in several projects and is currently teaching theatre at Chichiri Prison in Blantyre with the aim of empowering prisoners said creative skills have always been missing on the part of artists in the country.

“Many of the artists in the country use their own inborn talent and in the absence of art schools with only University of Malawi – Chancellor College as the reliable one, many of us have missed out on developing creative skills,” he said.

Matukuta said through World Cultures Connect they learnt creative skills which is the central focus in the project.

He said the country needs more of such opportunities in order to expand the creative industry.

“We need such programmes if we are to uplift the industry, we need to start going outside the box and take art as a business. Gone are the days when art was not taken seriously, there is more in arts,” said Matukuta, who leaves the country on August 19, 2016 for the festival in Scotland.

World Cultures Connect is a project aimed at connecting artists across Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific to international networks.

With other partners involved, the project aims at building a community and lasting network of creative businesses in more than 15 countries in the Pacific, the Caribbean and Africa over three years from 2014-2017.

Author Michael Phoya, who is the link in Malawi for the project said artists benefited a lot from the workshop last year and that Matukuta and Kalukusha’s attendance at the festival in Scotland in August was part of the final stage of the programme.

“This actually will not be the end because the results of the programme will be shared and at the end of it you are talking of expanding the creative industry,” said Phoya.

Visiting Arts provides tools to the cultural sector to work more efficiently and intelligently worldwide.

According to available information, since 1977 Visiting Arts has worked with some of the world’s most innovative emerging contemporary artists in programmes that engage and inspire young people, communities and future professionals.

The general objective of the programme is also to contribute to poverty reduction and sustainable development through the promotion of an enabling environment for creativity, cooperation and exchanges.

It is also part of safeguarding cultural diversity and fundamental cultural values.

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