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Kungoni Festival calls for love, unity

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Kungoni Art Centre at Mua in Dedza was the centre of attraction on Saturday as it returned with its annual festival, which has not taken place for the past three years due to Covid.

The festival, whose theme this year focused on love and unity, brought traditional dances that thrilled the massive audience.

As has been the case in the previous editions, people journeyed from as far as Blantyre, Lilongwe and Nkhotakota to be part of the annual event whose aim is to promote and preserve culture.

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Kungoni Art Centre is a hub of arts and culture and, led by Father Claude Boucher, popularly known as Achisale, the centre has shown the country that culture needs to be embraced.

However, the festival this year was led by Father Brendan O’shea, better known as Angozo, who is now the director of the centre, having taken over from Achisale.

The festival, which was hosted by MBC’s Robert Kalindiza started with prayers in the morning before getting down to poems, drama and traditional dances performed by both the young and the old.

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In their voices, the performers underscored the importance of culture and spread their messages to zero in on issues of environmental conservation, corruption and health, with many raising awareness on Covid.

Apart from poems and drama, some of the traditional dances that people sampled included Kazukuta, Mganda, Ngoma, Henga, Chitelera, Chimtali, Chisamba, Ching’ande, Kamchoma and Incwala before the main course, Gule Wamkulu, which came in different forms.

In attaching to the theme of unity and love, performers tied a cloth to a tree trunk and the climax of it all was when a thatched roof (mzati) was placed on the tree trunk.

Gule Wamkulu, which is a distinctive cultural manifestation of the Chewa people, came in different forms which included chameleon, lion and butterfly and they all communicated different messages to the people.

With the world including Malawi being affected by Covid, Gule Wamkulu did not skip the subject and, before coming in such a form, there was a moment when another Gule Wamkulu came with a warning to the people about Covid and all what it did was to distribute masks.

Another Gule Wamkulu, which was the biggest and stunned the audience, spoke highly about charcoal burning which continues to harm the environment and there was another one which also touched on albino the issues of abductions and killings.

Professor Francis Moto said after the event that he was happy that the festival has taken place this year.

“People came in large numbers and this is a motivation to organisers to do more. We need to promote and preserve our culture through education; culture needs to be embraced in both urban and rural areas,” Moto said.

Father O’shea said they always have problems putting the festival together due to funding.

“We are a non-profit centre and mostly rely on donors and some people assisted us. The focus was on love and unity because we looked at all the problems facing the world such as sickness and wars,” he said.

“This is why we began with inter-religious prayers bringing religious leaders together to give an example of unity and inspire other people,” O’shea said.

He said Malawi has an incredible culture and that it needs to do a lot more to encourage young people to know their culture, appreciate and be proud of it.

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