Season 8 of Blantyre Arts Festival


It doesn’t get any sweeter than this for Blantyre Arts Festival (Baf) which returns to the fold for the eighth time after a one-year hiatus.

The festival which starts Friday through to Sunday comes barely a week after Sunbird Livingstonia in Salima hosted the Sound and Light concert organised by Team Entertainers.

This is summer in the country and a period where people get to experience several events and festivals.


With several festivals struggling with funding and putting their foot down, Baf encountered the same challenge of funding last year that forced it to go on a break.

There were actually fears from the creative industry that the festival would no longer come back.

But thanks to sponsors such as Hivos through Cultural Fund Malawi, who came to their rescue for them to make a comeback this year.


It is not an easy thing to put a festival together, it demands a lot and the organisers spend sleepless nights to among others, bring different artists together.

Several festivals have come out but others have failed to stand out with only a few including Baf showing their strength.

For those who might have forgotten, Baf started in 2009 and has been giving people the much needed entertainment through various activities from theatre, movies, music, visual arts and dances.

Baf has helped in the development of the country bringing in several international acts.

The past can surely not be forgotten when Baf used to have Poetry Africa. These were surely the good times when people had a chance to sample poetry from renowned poets from different countries, who used to share the stage with the local poets.

One cannot afford to forget the time Poetry Africa brought Jamaican dub-poet Mutabaruka, who jetted at Chileka International Airport in Blantyre bare foot.

His performance at Blantyre Cultural Centre (BCC) then French Cultural Centre attracted an impressive audience which included Rastafarians.

It was Baf which brought on stage Erik Paliani, who showed his guitar skills spicing up a performance by one of the South African poets. What an amazing night it was.

The festival has gone on to host several other well-known acts and they include Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudzi, Mali’s Salif Keita and South Africa’s Rebecca Malope, who performed in 2015.

The festival has also had links with the outside world and through Friends Circle Malawi led by Chairperson Silvia Hesse, old-timer Giddes Chalamanda, Ben Mankhamba and Agorosso had a stint performing in Germany.

Baf has in the past years been headlined by international acts but this year Chileka-based reggae group Black Missionaries are the headliners.

This year it is all about giving the local acts the platform hence the theme 100 percent local.

The past years has also seen the festival being held in two venues – BCC and College of Medicine Complex and then back to one venue.

This year its again two venues and that’s BCC and Jacaranda Cultural Centre.

Baf Executive Director, Thom Chibambo, said on Wednesday that the festival will continue to give people the best as well as play its part in promoting Blantyre City but also Malawi to the world.

“As a festival we want to do more for the country. We want artists to have the platform to showcase their talents and we want the community to be involved this is why this year we have created a market zone for people to sell local foods,” Chibambo said.

He said despite facing the challenge of funding, the one-year break gave them a breather to reflect on some of their achievements but also look at some of the problems they have encountered.

“As we already said earlier, we are ready and everything is in its place. We start the whole programme on Thursday (yesterday) where we will have a festival preview at BCC. We will also have a photo exhibition and visual arts. We will also have the German Ambassador,” he said.

Chibambo said on Friday they will have a carnival to start at Old Town Hall to BCC and later a fashion show at night.

“We are here as a festival to promote all the arts and this is why we have theatre, poetry, music and fashion show among others,” he said.

Chibambo said the climax of the festival is on Sunday when people will have a chance to sample music from urban artists and other legends with the headliners Black Missionaries closing the curtain.

“With the market zone we have created, we want the community around Blantyre to be a part of it, expose their businesses and create contacts. We want the audience to taste local food as part of promoting culture,” he said.

Having performed at Sound and Light concert where they were also the last act, Black Missionaries’ lead vocalist Anjiru Fumulani said they were feeling on top of the world to be the headliners.

“We are happy to be placed as headliners of Baf this year. We have been performing at Baf all these years but we have never been headliners and so this has shown us that they value the group,” Anjiru said.

He said that many festivals prefer international acts as headliners but it was good that the trend has started changing.

“This just proves that local is good as well. We are thankful to Baf and ready to give out our best,” Anjiru said.

But having starred at Sound and Light concert what new for them at Baf?

“Sound and Light concert was a different platform and Baf is also a different platform. This is our home so you should expect something new. I will not say much but we are ready,” he said.

But having performed at different platforms, how much have they benefited from Baf and other festivals?

“First of all I should say that these platforms have given us a chance to share the stage with other artists both local and international and networked. Festivals mostly bring different audiences so you appeal to different people,” Anjiru said.

He also said that through festivals such as Baf, they have improved on their stage work as well as time management.

But with all that said what advice do they have to festival organisers?

“We need more festivals as artists because they give us the platforms and we should commend them for all the efforts they put in. But they should also make sure that they remain professional on issues of contracts so as to motivate artists. Strive to put in place good equipment for better sound,” he said.

Kwathu Drama Group Director, Eric Mabedi, also said they were ready for the festival.

“As a group we do not compromise on our performances. We always give out 100 percent,” Mabedi said.

The popular drama group will perform tomorrow staging their play titled Alibe Pa Bwino.

“This is an old play but we have polished it up and as usual there are so many changes,” he said.

Mabedi said they have not had a chance to perform in other festivals in the country but have had more chances with Baf.

“We are thankful to Baf for trusting and believing in us. But my appeal to Baf and other festival organisers is that they should strive to be professional. And that begins with having pre-meetings with artists to get their views but most of them do not involve artists,” Mabedi said.

He said in most cases artists just sign contracts but are not involved in any meetings to share their views on their needs during performances and that as a result they encounter problems.

Most festivals in the country miss out when it comes to time management and often times they do not follow the line-ups.

Festivals in the country are also yet to learn to do things fast on stage and this mostly happens when artists are exchanging the stage.

“Sound check has to be a must because this helps but in most cases this is not done. This ends up seeing artists taking time to start their acts disappointing the audience. There surely have to be a way to improve this,” said a fan Gerald Tembo.

Anjiru admitted this challenge and said artists and the organisers have to work together to make sure that the audience is not subjected to unnecessary sound checks and change of equipments on stage.

So here is Baf starting this weekend and at Jacaranda Cultural Centre, there will also be several activities including poetry to be offered by Vilipanganga Poetry Movement.

The festival will also have workshops which will see German artists Masha and Arne interacting with local acts.

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