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Respecting creativity

Tale of Jacaranda School for Orphans

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TEAM WORK – Friends finalise a mural

The country has for a long time failed to value and respect talent and this is why it is sidelined in most of the national programmes despite its immense contribution to the economy.

Today, the country still operates without an Arts Council despite the Cultural Policy being approved long time ago.

Intact for the Cultural Policy to be approved, it had to take ages as well and such is the tussle that the creative industry continues to move in its pursuit for respect.

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It is because of lack of respect for talent and creativity that the country still does not have enough when it comes to schools of art, with many excelling with their inborn talent.

There is little or even nothing in school curriculums focusing more on the growth of art and this can be observed in government primary and secondary schools.

But while art has been sidelined by others, some continue to fight for its growth.

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There are several players who doing exceptional work in as far as propelling art is concerned and this brings us to Jacaranda School for Orphans in Chigumula, Blantyre.

One observes the seriousness of art at the school before entry as its walls have been decorated with murals just to show the beauty of art.

On the wall, there is a mural of veteran writer the late Desmond Dudwa Phiri and then there is also a recent mural of bookshelves crafted by youthful artist Reuben Salima and others.

Salima is one of the students, who has excelled with art and having started at a very tender age, he is today reaping rewards with the latest news seeing him being awarded a full one-year scholarship to study film in Paris, France.

Although he has in the past done well in visual arts, Salima has also focused much interest in film and the scholarship to study at Don Bosco International Film Academy has come at the right time.

“This is huge for me. I never saw this coming but God has his own way of doing things. I have always believed in my talent and with support from Jacaranda School for Orphans founder Marie Da Silva and Luc Deschamps and teachers and students, I have kept on going,” Salima said.

He said Jacaranda School for Orphans has opened up to students to show their talents.

“I hope to learn more in France and looking forward to impart the knowledge to fellow young people when I come back,” Salima said.

He said with the film industry in the country making positive steps, he believes with what he will learn in France, he is going to help in its growth.

“For me art is something I value. There is talent in the country and there are a lot of young people who have exceptional talent but what they lack are platforms and resources. At Jacaranda School for Orphans they really try their best to give us the resources,” Salima said.

Da Silva always values and respects talent for she knows what it is capable of doing.

It is this respect and value for talent that she decided to make the school a home and hub of arts and students are given the freedom to express themselves through their talent.

Today there are several students that are doing well in various artistic disciplines.

“We have opened up for every artistic discipline here, be it music, poetry, dance, visual arts, fashion design and many others. Some of the students with their talents have gone to perform in different international festivals,” Da Silva said.

She said she was excited with Salima’s strides in art and that they were looking forward to him coming back and help in teaching fellow students and young people at vocational school they have established.

“It is our duty at Jacaranda School for Orphans to follow our students’ passions and then help them to achieve their goals and dreams,” Da Silva said.

Deschamps who orchestrated Salima’s scholarship, said they were hoping that the scholarship will open more doors to other Malawian youth, who want to develop careers in the film industry.

Apart from being the driving force of several artistic projects at Jacaranda Cultural Centre where he is the director, Deschamps has also taken strides in instilling in students the culture of reading and writing by establishing Mr Luc’s libraries.

In all the various artistic disciplines, Jacaranda School for Orphans involves various players in imparting knowledge to students.

Musician Agorosso is one of the players that teach students music at the school. The others are veteran Francis Mijiga, who also drives Music Club in Blantyre.

“We need to build art; this is an exciting area that we need to exploit as a country. There is so much talent and I see it when I am working with the students,” Mijiga said.

Some of the students he is working with have made progress learning how to play the piano whereas others are learning to play violin and the guitar.

Members of Floor Steppers which did well in the Ka Jive Dance competition spearheaded by Times Group through Times Television also teach students dance.

Then there is also contemporary dancer Robert Magasa, who also teaches students various dance routines.

The school has a professional dance studio and music studio which were supported by American singer Madonna.

“This is one of the unique professional dance studios I have seen in the country. Dance is an art discipline that still needs attention. This is a career and for Jacaranda School for Orphans to invest in such a studio it shows it values art,” Magasa said.

There are also other students that are learning visual art and this is done by Ellis Singano, who has held several exhibitions at Jacaranda Cultural Centre.

With all this said and done, art needs to be given space in the country to flourish and proper resources need to be channelled starting at the grassroots.

There is more in the sector in terms of even creating employment and art activist Eric Trinta has always brought the issue of creating employment as vital for the country but for him everything starts with the creation of the Arts Council which he believes is long overdue.

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