Minister of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife Michael Usi Tuesday unveiled a K20 million financial support for artists in the country to be used for national sensitisation campaign against Covid.
The move comes barely a week after Poetry Association of Malawi (Pam) President Chisomo Mdalla, popularly known as Nyamalikiti Nthiwatiwa, bemoaned lack of support to the creative sector.
Artists and event organisers are struggling following a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people which is one of the Covid measures and this has relegated artists into their homes since they rely on gatherings.
Usi announced the package oiled by Malawi Gaming Board at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe Tuesday.
He admitted that arts and creative industries were among sectors which have been worst affected by the pandemic.
“In an effort to contain the spread of the virus, the relevant authorities introduced preventive measures as part of public health regulations and response plan. However, the measures have grossly affected activities for the arts and creative industries,” the minister said.
He then said that Malawi Gaming Board (MGB) in conjunction with the Ministry has set up a fund aimed at cushioning selected local performing artists from the impact of Covid.
“Recognising that artists constitute one sector that has been hit the most, we have come up with ‘Artists against Covid’ week to be commemorated in late April, during which selected artists will take a leading role in the dissemination of Covid messages in return for a modest stipend,” Usi said.
He said he was happy to unveil the K20 million fund so that artists can play their role in the national sensitisation campaign against Covid.
“My ministry will collaborate with Ministry of Health and other stakeholder ministries so that artists are guided on the prevailing issues which need sensitisation,” Usi said.
“The Ministry is fully aware that other fields of arts have also been affected. We are therefore working on modalities for a relief package for artists in the other fields, including visual arts,” he said.
Usi said a joint taskforce which comprises of representatives of MGB, artists and the ministry has been put in place to operationalise the process.
“Artists will be guided on how to apply for the fund. The taskforce is expected to conclude its assignment by end of next week so that this initiative is open for applications,” he said.
Usi, who admitted that the package was small but this was just the beginning, has since applauded MGB for the partnership in alleviating the negative impact of Covid on their businesses and welfare.
This is not the first time MGB has supported the creative sector as, last year, it also pumped money to the Artists Welfare Fund.
MGB Licensing Manager and Public Relations Officer Mirriam Kumbuyo said they value arts, hence supporting it differently this time.
“We, as MGB, promote responsible gambling and tourism and art also comes in. We are happy to play this role and the selection will be transparent,” Kumbuyo said.
Mdalla has since commended MGB and the government for the package for a start but was quick to say that it was not enough to sustain all artists in the country.