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New leaders in arts associations

MPAKULE—Things have been tough for us

PAM LEADER—Chiwamba

It has been a long journey in the creative sector in 2021, which saw arts associations trying their level best to propel their works.

It was a year which saw some arts associations making headway by ushering in new leaders.

Some arts associations failed to hold elections despite the expiry of terms of leaders and one of them is Visual Arts Association of Malawi (Vaam) which only managed to hold regional elections.

Vaam elections are long overdue and the association would have by now conducted its elections and ushered in new leaders.

In September last year, Vaam acting President Gilbert Mpakule told The Daily Times that the association had a long way to go to fulfill some of its plans as it was struggling with funding.

Having held regional elections, expectations were high that Vaam would hold elections in 2021 but it did not.

It remains to be seen if the association will manage to hold national elections in 2022 as part of its development.

The association has for a long time played second fiddle to other arts disciplines despite its potential.

“Things have been tough for us. We do not have funds. In the past years, we were benefitting from Cultural Support Scheme but it phased out. We want to do more but, with Covid, things have not been going in the right direction,” Mpakule said.

He said they were looking for nothing but the best in 2022.

Vaam won the hearts of many people in 2021 when some of its members displayed striking artworks during the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) summit in Lilongwe.

While Vaam failed to achieve its feat of holding elections, some arts associations ushered in new office-bearers and they include National Theatre Association of Malawi (Ntam).

Ntam is now being headed by Blantyre-based veteran actor Maxwell Chiphinga, better known as Max DC.

Max DC took over from the late Eric Mabedi, who headed the previous National Executive Committee (Nec) before expiry of their term.

Before the elections, Ntam had been embroiled in differences which affected its progress.

The announcement of the official results came after the results were withheld following Northern Region chapter’s failure to vote after they boycotted elections due to lack of information.

Ntam Board Chairperson Timothy Chikoja said they gave Northern Region chapter a chance to lodge their complaint but nothing came out, hence proceeded to announce the results.

“We would like to congratulate the new executive and we wish them all the best in their endeavours. Now there has to be sanity; let us move forward for the growth of theatre in the country,” Chikoja said after the elections.

A letter dated September 27 2021 from the board to regional chairpersons, signed by Chikoja and taskforce chairperson McArthur Matukuta, indicated that Max DC amassed 158 votes, beating Edwin Chonde, who got nine votes to claim the presidency.

The position of vice president went to Beauty Fologonya, who amassed 144 votes, beating Moses Chirambo and Sam Sambo, who got five votes and 13 votes, respectively.

The other elected members in Ntam Nec, dominated by Southern Region, include Bernard Gondwe (general secretary), Mildred Murindiwa (vice general secretary), Shadreck Jumaina (treasurer general), Fumbani Phiri (publicity secretary) and Gibson Chisale (vice publicity secretary).

Max DC, who leads Emancipation Theatrical Ensemble, said after his election that he was ready for the challenge.

“Plans are many but, God willing, my plans are generally to change the status of Ntam and make it recognisable and visible and make its members proud that they belong to the body,” he said.

The actor, playwright, musician, filmmaker and storyteller said then that the first thing for Ntam was to put its house in order.

“We need to formulate a strategic plan for the next 15 years. We need to sit down and articulate our vision and put it in black and white. This will be our road map on how we will move,” he said.

Towards the end of 2021, Chiphinga led Ntam Nec to meet officials in the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife to share some of their plans.

“There were several things we discussed, but high on the agenda was the issue of Ntam plan of events in 2022. We intend to initiate a National Theatre Festival in December, which will be annual, as well as a street festival to run during Tourism Week in September,” he said.

Theatre used to be on top in the past years but in these modern times, it has lost its ground although several theatre players have been vibrant initiating different programmes to tell their stories and one of them is the Theatre in Mandala curated by Tawonga Nkhonjera.

Another association that walked its talk in 2021 was Poetry Association of Malawi (Pam).

Pam members went to polls in 2021 to elect new office-bearers following expiry of terms of the previous Nec headed by Chisomo Mdalla, better known as Nyamalikiti Nthiwatiwa.

The association is now being headed by Robert Chiwamba.

The only setback is that the executive has no female member something Chiwamba described as unfortunate.

A total of 17 poets contested during the elections and, out of that, only two were female.

Luckier Chikopa and Ellah Cossam contested for the positions of vice president and vice general secretary, respectively, but failed to make it.

Despite this setback, Chikopa got compensated as she was elected Pam chairperson for Southern chapter.

Chikopa of the ‘Mamuna Ndi Mbalame’ fame heads a male-dominated committee.

“There is more to be done. I am looking at initiating different programmes and we will try to engage various players for partnerships as part of propelling poetry,” Chikopa said.

In the Central chapter, the committee is headed by Mervis Hunga whereas the vice chairperson is Davie Longwe. The Northern Region chapter is being headed by Padiwa Kasho with his vice Bernard Gondwe.

Chiwamba has shown his seriousness to change the face of Pam by engaging in a number of partnerships and, in 2021, the association also held its annual general meeting where a board was elected and it has names such as Associate Professor Asante Mtenje, Nthiwatiwa, Deus Sandram and Grace Sharra.

The other association that made strides in 2021 is Film Association of Malawi (Fama) which is now under the leadership of Gift Sukez Sukali. Sukali took over leadership from Ezaius Mkandawire.

Sukali in 2021 initiated a number of partnerships as regards growing the film industry and the association is also looking into the plan of reviving cinema culture.

In 2021 among others, Fama signed agreements with Latitude Hotel in Lilongwe and Amaryllis Hotel in Blantyre to be screening films in a Movie Night initiative.

“We, as Fama, are looking at growing the film industry, we want to promote Malawian films and we saw a lack of platforms for them to showcase their work hence searching for partners,” Sukali said last year.

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