For a long time, players in the creative industry have cried foul over lack of support the government to arts despite its contribution to the country’s development.
This has even been compounded by the absence of Arts and Heritage Council which, once it comes into effect, will help arts associations get subvention from the government.
At the moment arts associations do not get any subvention from the government and while other associations have managed to sustain themselves, many are struggling and operating without proper offices.
Recently, Book Publishers Association of Malawi (Bpam) President Maureen Masamba bemoaned lack of activities for the publishing industry, saying, with Covid, many were struggling and scaling down operations.
But it seems that, despite things moving at a slow pace, there is that will to build the creative industry as per the meetings that the government —through Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife—has been holding with players in the creative industry.
And just this week, of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife Minister Michael Usi, alongside Principal Secretary George Masina and other key officials in the ministry, engaged rightsholders coordinating committee in a virtual meeting.
Usi confirmed of the meeting saying he called for the gathering and that with the situation as regards Covid yet to normalise, they decided to hold a virtual meeting.
“The agendas for the meeting were very relevant to the development of arts and, so, I engaged these players on, among other issues, transparency and accountability,” Usi said.
He admitted that the government also needs to improve on issues of communication saying many players in the creative industry do not get the information correctly.
“Players need to know what the government is doing especially for the creative industry. The other challenge that has been there is that arts groups are fragmented and then there are differences and this has made it difficult at times when it comes to progress,” Usi said.
He said creatives need to come together and unite and that they should also stop complaining that the government is not giving them money.
“These are creatives and much as there is need for that support, these creatives also need to write proposals and pursue them and be clear on what they want to achieve and that would in turn bring progress otherwise we had a very good meeting,” the minister, who is also a renowned artist said.
Malawi Union of Academic and Non-Fiction Authors President Ron Muphuwa, who was part of the meeting, said they discussed a number of issues including being alerted on the ministry’s vision and support to the arts fraternity now in times of Covid and beyond as well as Memorandum of Understanding on space allocation at Blantyre Cultural Centre.
“The meeting has made rightsholders aware of what the Department of Arts in particular and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife in general are doing to support the arts and creative industry through the creation of a flagship programme, decentralisation of some key ministry activities and online platforms to enable artists continue to perform,” Muphuwa said.
He said more encouraging is the minister’s proactive approach to identifying alternative funding towards making arts and culture industry vibrant and finalising the rehabilitation works at Blantyre Cultural Centre so that the facility can become usable next financial year.
Malawi Writers Union President Chikumbutso Ndaferankhande also described the meeting as important for the growth of the industry.
“We touched on a number of issues including the K20 million Covid fund announced by the Ministry recently in partnership with Malawi Gaming Board. It was also good to hear that the minister is courting a number of donors,” Ndaferankhande said.
Ndaferankhande also said it is high time arts associations stopped working in isolation if they were to speak with one voice but rather unite for the growth of the industry.
The move also came barely a day after officials in the Ministry also met players from the Musicians Union of Malawi (Mum) and members who are pushing for the rebirth of Musicians Association of Malawi (Mam).
The two parties have been on a cat and mouse chase mouse with Mum saying they did not deregister Mam.