The launch of an Artists Welfare Fund last year by the government through Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife in partnership with Malawi Gaming Board attracted mixed reactions.
Start-up capital worth K16 million to assist artists was launched in Lilongwe by Minister of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife Michael Usi.
While some artists welcomed the development, others were of the view that the package was too small to sustain artists.
Musician Eric Trinta, hit at the government but Usi came out to say that this was only a start-up capital and that they were talking to other players to have more support for the creative sector.
“The creative sector is not given the attention it deserves and yet it contributes a lot to gross domestic product of the country. This is a sector which has even contributed a lot to employment and yet it gets nothing,” Trinta said then.
And on Tuesday the government in partnership with Malawi Gaming Board (MGB) came out again with a K20 million financial support for artists to be used for national sensitisation campaign against Covid.
While artists have once again welcomed the development, some still feel the package is not enough to benefit all the art disciplines out there.
“First of all I should thank Malawi Gaming Board for valuing arts. This is commendable. I would have loved if the package were on the higher side but since this is just the beginning then we can always look forward to more support,” Poetry Association of Malawi (Pam) President Chisomo Mdalla popularly known as Nyamalikiti Nthiwatiwa said.
Several artists on social media platforms have also been disappointed with the smaller package.
“I am thankful to Malawi Gaming Board; they have shown that they are a friend to the creative sector. Last year they came out and here they are once again. The government would have at least topped up this package so that it benefits all arts disciplines,” an actor who did not want to be named said.
He said artists have been affected greatly with Covid and that in the absence of shows, they were failing to make ends meet.
“We submitted proposals but up to now there is nothing. We were supposed to get Covid funds through these proposals and we are not sure where we are on this,” the actor said.
But Usi said the K20 million was a different package.
“The proposals that artists wrote are being looked at and so, artists should not worry. This is different. The Director of Arts is on top of the other fund and when that fund is ready we will come out,” he said.
Usi said artists should exercise patience in that this is just the beginning.
“This fund will not reach out to everyone but we will be as transparent as possible. This has been implemented because artists are languishing out there and we thought we should have a starting point,” the minister said.
He also cautioned that this initiative should not die in its infancy because there was going to be the second phase.
“I maintain that this is not an event but it is a starter-pack. We are hoping that more players will come in”, he said.
Usi said this is a process and that whatever lessons they learn, the government will always step up and improve.
“The Tonse government led by President Lazarus Chakwera values art and we are determined to uplift this industry because we know how much it contributes,” he said.
MGB Licensing Manager and Public Relations Officer Mirriam Kumbuyo said artists are struggling hence coming out with the package.
Kumbuyo also maintained that they will be transparent in the operation of the package and that arts will always be part of their programmes.
“We promote responsible gambling and tourism and we raise money through licenses. It is this money which we use in promoting tourism and also channel the other money to arts,” she said.
Recently legendary poet Benedicto Wokoma-atani Malunga bemoaned lack of support to the creative sector.
It remains to be seen as to how far this K20 million package will go as far as helping the creative industry is concerned otherwise many in the sector feel it is a smaller package which the government could have doubled.