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Struggles in creative industry

La Galleria turns to framing

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AT WORK— One of the staff members framing President Chakwera’s portrait

Things are hard in these times of Covid-19 pandemic where every sector has been affected.

In the absence of events and performances, the creative industry has found it hard to progress.

Recently legendary artist Soldier Lucius Banda, said this was a lost year and that artists should just strive to stay alive.

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National Theatre Association of Malawi (Ntam) President Eric Mabedi also said the same that although some drama groups were not that active, they have still been affected by the pandemic and that life was no longer the same.

Galleries which have been key in buying artists’ works have also not been spared, most of them are now operating at a loss and for some, they have had to readjust.

La Galleria whose proprietor is visual artist and filmmaker Elson Kambalu, is one of the galleries that has been working with a lot of artists across the country.

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A lot of artists have earned money through selling at La Galleria but the trend has now changed.

Kambalu said they have now turned their focus to the framing studio.

“We set up the framing studio around 2013 and we have bought our own state of the art equipment which is state of the art. We are currently doing framing of all types,” he said.

Kambalu said the reason why people are hearing so much about framing department was because the main feature which is the gallery has gone down.

“ Let me say it here that 95 percent of our sales was from the expatriate community and because of the current situation, everything about the arts has completely stopped and so, we thought of finding a way and framing has become the point of survival,” he said.

Kambalu said at the moment framing was the business that has managed to reach out to the Malawian community.

“It’s been there but now it is more active. When people have photographs – they would want to frame them. Then the coming in of President Lazarus Chakwera has also pushed the framing business in that there are a lot of people doing framing,” the visual artist said.

He said it was because of such thrive in the area that they took it as an opportunity to advertise.

“ This is what we are doing at the moment framing presidential portraits but also whatever artwork people want to frame,” Kambalu said.

The architect of Mlandu wa Njinga movie, admitted that the creative industry has suffered a lot.

“Within the art gallery it has been a while since we made huge sales and business has really stopped. Most artists are just painting and stocking up and just practicing because we are not taking any new artworks.

We are going through a tough time right now,” Kambalu said.

He said they have been working with more than 200 artists but now the numbers have dropped.

“Outlets are no longer there and so it is not easy. But life has to go on,” Kambalu said.

He said plans were for them to adapt to the new norm and that includes strengthening their online presence.

“ This is what we are trying to do, build up online presence, creating an online art gallery where people can seal deals there. So, we are going full throttle because this is the way to go,” Kambalu said.

He said that they have also secured another place which was new in their quest to reach out to Malawian community.

“We are setting up two new branch where we will be having outlets for framing and so, in a month time we should have them in place,” Kambalu said.

Further, we have also taken advantage of fashion designers and tailors operating with us to intensify on making masks.

“We are able to supply masks to organisations, procuring for their clients and we have had the privilege to supply more masks which is like a spin off from what we do,” he said.

Kambalu then called on artists in the country to consider going online and explore new ways.

“Online is the way to go now because that’s where they can meet all clients and be able to buy their works. This is also time for practice and reflection so that when the old norm comes back they should not be taken unawares,” he said.

The visual artists, who has exhibited his works in both local and international platforms, said this was also a perfect time for artists to perfect their game “because there is so much time without disturbance”.

“It is up to us to take advantage of that length,” he said.

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