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Focus turns to next year

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MATUKUTA—Cases are still on the rise

The past years have seen the country enjoying the best of festivals, with close to six festivals taking turns.

Some of the top six festivals listed last year which have helped sell the country to the world include Lake of Stars, Blantyre Arts, Tumaini and Sand Music.

Apart from giving artists the platform to shine and show the best of their talents, these festivals have also been key in attracting international acts.

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But this year seems to be different as some of these festivals will not take place.

First to announce cacellation was Lake of Stars Festival which last year took place at a new venue – Kachere Kastle in Nkhata Bay where it once again attracted both local and international artists.

Organisers of Lake of Stars Festival said early this year that they were taking a one-year break which was important in “keeping the festival fresh”.

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Despite announcing that it would not be taking place this year, the organisers said the festival would keep itself visible by supporting new projects.

Lake of Stars spokesperson and Head of Media Zilanie Gondwe, maintained in January this year that the festival will always be there.

“This is the third break since 2004. Lake of Stars is the longest running festival in Malawi and even older than many festivals in Southern Africa or the world,” Gondwe said.

The festival takes place annually in September and next month, people would have been patronising the festival that started at Chintheche Inn in Nkhata Bay.

The announcement by Lake of Stars Festival that it would not take place this year disappointed many people, who have always looked forward to this festival every year.

So, for others, they looked forward to Blantyre Arts, Nkhotakota, Tumaini and Sand Music festivals among others, but with the world hit hard by Covid-19 pandemic, some festival organisers have also come out to postpone their events.

Nkhotakota Music Festival, which is another event that has picked up and has over the years attracted top artists including Erik Paliani, is held in April but failed to take place due to the pandemic.

With the pandemic claiming a lot of lives, countries have had to take tough measures to avoid the spread of the virus and it includes banning of gatherings, thereby affecting the creative industry which depends on gatherings.

Blantyre Arts Festival (Baf) which could have been celebrating its 11th edition this year, will also not take place due to Covid-19 pandemic.

Baf Executive Director Thom Chibambo, said they were sad that the festival will not take place this year but was quick to say that with the pandemic they had no choice.

“The pandemic has affected the whole world and Malawi has not been spared. The cases keep on rising and as Baf we always attract huge audiences and the best we could have done was to postpone the festival and not risk the lives of our festival goers,” Chibambo said.

He said in the meantime, they will continue to play their part and sensitise the people about the pandemic.

“Baf has embarked on a project aimed at fighting the pandemic with support from Usaid through World Connect in Malawi and Hannover City in Germany. Baf 2020 was scheduled to take place from October 9-11 but we cannot hold it,” Chibambo said.

He said af as an arts organisation and a festival, would want to do more in the community by supporting them with different items such as buckets and soap to avoid the spread of the virus.

Musician Faith Mussa, who has represented the country in different festivals both within and outside, said festivals have always been instrumental in giving artists a platform.

“This year is tough and we just have to accept it. I was supposed to perform in festivals outside the country but all these festivals were postponed. This is all because of the pandemic, we just hope that things will normalise soon otherwise it’s a blow,” the ‘Mdidi’ star, who recently released a remix of ‘Mkazi Wakumwamba’, said.

He said festivals have always offered a platform to artists in terms of interaction and that this is where artists have also ended up striking deals.

“At the moment every artist is trying to look for alternatives, especially where we do not have live shows and festivals as well. We now have to adjust and look at the online platform,” Faith said.

The singer and guitarist, who has used his one-man band when performing outside the country, had an opportunity of performing online for Nkhotakota Music Festival after the festival was postponed.

Solomonic Peacocks also holds the Easter Theatre Festival in April every year but it failed to do so due to the pandemic.

The theatre group had indicated that it would hold the festival later, once the situation normalises.

Solomonic Peacocks Director McArthur Matukuta, said the focus for them now was next year.

“For now, I can comfortably say that we have postponed the festival. Cases are still on the rise and there are restrictions as regards travel so to put together a festival and have both local and international artists will be difficult. It is already August and I don’t see us getting that time to prepare,” Matukuta said.

He said they have since started preparing for next year and revealed that the festival would be held on March 24-26 2021.

Tumaini Festival Founder Menes la Plume, said festivals have been affected.

“Most of the sponsors have no money to support us as their businesses have been affected by the pandemic. Most of the funds are directed towards fighting Covid-19 pandemic. All of this has made this year very difficult. The planning has been difficult as things are unpredictable,” Menes said.

He said they were still monitoring the situation as regards holding the festival in November this year.

“We are monitoring the situation until mid-September then we can make a final decision,” Menes, whose festival has won the 2020 Sharjah International Award for Refugee Support and Advocacy, said.

Soldier Lucius Banda also said it was tough for Sand Music Festival.

“It’s just hanging in limbo, we don’t know what’s next but we can do any other month but if we see that next month things haven’t normalised then we can count the festival out. It’s a tough year and all we can do this year is to make sure we stay alive and then plan for next year,” Lucius said.

This month would have seen the Lilongwe Jazz Festival taking place but it is also not yet clear whether it will take place this year.

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