Sungani Zakwathu Cultural Heritage Association (Suzcha), a cultural non-governmental organisation has called on the government to take time to review some of its cultural cooperations for the betterment of the cultural sector.
Suzcha Executive Director Mathews Mfune, said Wednesday he was happy with the several cultural agreements that the country has made over the years with different countries in Southern African region and beyond.
“We need these cultural agreements and cooperations if we are to make progress. These cooperations have helped our respective governments to exchange various expertise, information and knowledge at government to government level. But there is need to review them and see the progress and where we need to improve,” Mfune said.
He said in President Lazarus Chakwera’s State of the Nation Address recently, they were happy that the President indicated that the government wants to reform Foreign Affairs Ministry and its missions.
“This is also part of reviewing these cultural agreements. As Suzcha, we would like to call upon the government to evaluate each of the cultural cooperations. We need such things like cultural exchanges between our community organisations, Non-governmental organisations, academic institutions and other relevant stakeholders in the sector,” Mfune said.
He said Suzcha believes such cooperations will directly benefit “our respective people in the partner countries, because the heart of any heritage are communities-real people with authentic connections to historic sites and cultural practices”.
He said the country needs to be active and make sure that the agreements it makes brings fruits adding that such international cooperations are encouraged in the 2003 Unesco Convention for Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage to exchange information, knowledge, expertise and documentation/research.
“These cooperations need not benefit people above but even those at the grassroots, those in the rural areas so that they have improved livelihoods especially with the cultural treasures. Therefore, it is imperative for Malawi to access the knowledge, expertise, capacity building and experiences through such cultural exchanges,” Mfune said.
He said the arts and cultural sector has been sidelined for a long time and “yet it contributes a lot to the development of the country”.
Minister of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife Michael Usi, has emphasised the need for the country to value its arts and cultural sector adding that it was key in the development of the country.
“There is more we need to do but as a Minister, I will try my level best to uplift the ministry so that players benefit,” Usi said.
The minister has been on a drive of touring different heritage sites which he said were key in developing the tourism sector.
On Monday, Usi made a surprise visit to Blantyre Cultural Centre (BCC) as part of his drive to propel the creative industry. BCC is undergoing renovation having been ransacked in 2011.