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No sanity in creative sector

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Renowned musician Erik Paliani said recently that having more festivals will be part of growing the creative industry.

He, however, was quick to say that there was a need for sanity by organisers to make sure that people appreciate all the festivals.

But lack of sanity continues to haunt the industry with every Jim and jack creating a festival without even having proper preparations.

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The target for most of the festivals in the country especially those along the shores of Lake Malawi has been the months of September and October.

These months have proved vital in terms of having a proper time for a festival and with climate change; the month of October has been affected by rains at times just as was the case with Sand Music Festival last year.

Sand Music Festival which this year is taking place at Sunbird Nkopola in Mangochi following construction works at Sunbird Livingstonia, was disrupted by rains last year after it was hosted during the month end of October.

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With what happened last year, the organisers decided to revisit their dates this year by holding it early October.

With Sand Music Festival, Hangout and Tumaini which are well known announcing their dates this year, Lake of Stars and Blantyre Arts cancelled their events due to Covid.

But the past weeks has also seen several other event organisers announcing their festivals and shows bringing more events the months of September and October which some quarters feel is not healthy for the creative sector.

The creative industry has for the past months felt the effects of Covid with no events due to restrictions but with cases decreasing, event organisers seem to be coming out full throttle without sanity.

Some quarters while agreeing that people need more entertainment to take off stress, feel that sanity has also got to play its role in the creative sector.

“This is recipe for chaos. There is just too much. We can’t have all these festivals happening the same month. Something needs to be done,” one fan, said.

Chimwemwe Nyirenda, who has patronised festivals in and outside the country, also described the development as a recipe for chaos on his Facebook page.

“It’s Lilongwe, Sand Music, Hangout, Tumaini, Sound and Light in five weeks,” he said.

A festival is an event that takes a lot of time to plan. A festival is not a show and so too a show is not a festival.

One can wake up today and hold a show but for a festival, there is need to plan better and articulate it professionally but that trend misses in a lot of festivals in the country and this has laid to poor outcomes in most cases.

Director of Arts in the Department of Arts in the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife Humphrey Mpondaminga, said they have, over the years, consulted stakeholders in order to help bring about sanity but there are still challenges.

“We presented models on festivals to wake on sanity because at the moment we cannot regulate festivals or events. We have worked on a calendar but this only acknowledges credible festivals,” Mpondaminga said.

He said for now they cannot be stopping event organisers from holding events.

“As a responsible ministry, the department is not there to stop events but we only strive to ensure that there is order and we can only stop an when there is failure to meet standards especially through the Entertainment Act through Censorship Board,” Mpondaminga said.

He said the onus was with organisers to come to them with one voice.

“But as I said earlier, during consultations this was discussed and many felt there should not be any restrictions, so it’s complicated now,” Mpondaminga said.

He appealed to organisers to be cautious with events especially during this Covid period to avoid putting people at risk.

“There is a need to play cautious with Covid. We know the cases are going down but the restrictions are still there and we need to play it safe,” Mpondaminga said.

Musician and arts activist Eric Trinta, who is Nyamithambo Arts Palace proprietor, said the creative industry is one of the sectors which is not regulated.

“We have always spoken about the Arts Council, which is vital in all this. Since the Cultural Policy came into effect, we could have made progress by bringing the Arts Council but there is nothing yet and the result is what you see on the ground,” Trinta said.

He said once Arts Council comes into effect, the sector will be guided through the body.

“For the creative sector to have proper vision there is need for this tool. At the moment we don’t have it and we have lobbied for it for years and nothing is happening,” he said.

Trinta said, once the Arts Council is established, there will be proper channels which will be followed and that there will be sanity.

“Festivals will even be placed in the right channel. We have other festivals which are held but people do not know them because they don’t have a platform and all these need to be directed to the right platforms. What we need is not competition, event organisers are there to compete and yet this is all about propelling arts as well as creating employment,” Trinta said.

He said the creative sector needs a unifying factor which will help in building the industry for its proper growth.

“I will tell you that there are event organisers who are bringing into the country foreign arts but with no benefit to the country. Foreign artists come and make money without paying anything and yet this is necessary. We need proper channels,” Trinta said.

He said the sector is disjointed and that many of the arts associations are operating with no funding.

“We have briefcase associations that are lacking direction and have no say on some of the events on the ground. With Arts Council all this would be a thing of the past and the same remains of the festivals and events without this then we will continue to dance to chaos and people will be getting poor shows,” Trinta said.

Tammy Clare Mbendera, who has worked with top festivals including Bushfire in eSwatini, said everyone is trying to make money now that the pandemic is the new normal and also touched on artists even getting double bookings citing the case of Sand Music and Hangout, who have all booked South Africa’s Makhadzi.

Makhadzi will first perform at Sand Music on October 1 and will come again October end to perform at Hangout taking place at Kabumba Hotel in Salima District.

“Events are not just management. Curation makes all the difference,” Mbendera said.

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