Minister of Sports and Culture Grace Chiumia on Friday did not mince words saying that she was disappointed and embarrassed with the pathetic state of the Blantyre Cultural Centre formerly French Cultural Centre which was ransacked by thieves.
Chiumia said this when she officially opened this year’s Blantyre Arts Festival (BAF) held at the venue. The festival ended yesterday and this year was running under the theme ‘Arts Can Do It.’
“This place is dilapidated and not in good shape and the government is losing out in terms of making money. I am disappointed that the place is in such a state and hosting this key festival but as government, we will take serious measures and revamp the place,” she said.
However, it has been the same old story of promises on the centre from the previous ministers but the rehabilitation has not been done with some quarters hitting at the government for neglecting arts and culture.
But Chiumia said the government was serious in uplifting the arts and culture and assured Malawians that the government through her ministry will try its level best to put the once mighty entertainment Mecca back to its shape.
“This is why I am here, we will do something and this is a serious promise. I also want to call upon those who have ideas to come forward and not only point fingers. We need to work together,” she said.
The BCC which has hosted performances of several renowned international artists including Jamaican Mutabaruka, Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudzi and Benin’s Angelique Kidjo among others was ransacked by thieves in 2011 after the place was left without protection for sometime soon after its closure.
The government bought the centre at K300 million from the French government but with its state, it will have to spend millions again to put it back in shape.
Chiumia then hailed BAF organisers for an attractive event saying she was impressed with the performances and that students from different schools also showcased their talents.
She also noted that artists do not have a proper place where they can sell their artworks hence the government will look into the issue.
Chiumia also said that the government was in the process of bringing the National Cultural Day to celebrate culture.
Mayor of the City of Blantyre Noel Chalamanda also hailed BAF for the event saying it was a platform that brought people together to celebrate culture.
He said the Blantyre City Council will work hand in hand with Blantyre Arts Festival to uplift the festival so that it does not only hold its events in October but rather it should be throughout the year.
Chalamanda also said the Blantyre City Council was concerned with the state of the BCC hence they would consult government to resuscitate the place.
“Our dream is to resuscitate this place. Basically we want to involve different people who have interest in arts and culture. This place was very active throughout the year and we want that to come back this is why we are approaching the government because the place is in their hands,” said the mayor.
The Minister and the Mayor had a chance to watch different activities from students from different schools.
BAF Board of Trustees Chairperson Alfred Msadala said their objective is in the promotion of Malawian culture but with economic challenges, he said they are visualizing challenges in sustainability hence he called upon the government to help them.
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