Talk about Khulubvi
Social media platforms have make communication easy; interaction is at minimum cost today than it was several years ago. Silly posts usually attract a lot of comments and interest from one’s followers. An intellectual post would usually attract few comments because not many people want to be engaged in a thoughtful conversation or discussion.
It is even worse for historic posts about Malawi; such posts would be ignored while the few to likely comment on it would expose their lack of knowledge. It is possible to export our history through social media platforms. Perhaps we can. For a country heavily dependent on unsustainable exports is surely tilting towards economic collapse. Calls to diversify the exports have been made on different fora but few would believe it when cultural experts declare that their sector’s economic potential must be explored.
But I would not be surprised if the cultural sector comes last if areas of importance were to be listed while exploring an alternative path for development. Culture is neglected and misunderstood, yet it is referred to in everyday conversation.
There are several examples that, authenticate the accepted view that for developing countries, culture is central to development. Despite the sector facing several challenges in Malawi, culture remains a readily available asset that can be utilised to contribute to development and economic growth. The most prominent challenge is the struggle to define culture. Culture, as defined by Unesco, provides a guideline that could be used by developing countries still grappling with their cultural policies.
It is not surprising that Malawi is still wandering in the jungle trying to discover the relevance of culture in its development drive. One aspect of culture is that is it a distinctive spiritual feature of the society or a social group. I deliberately chose this aspect for obvious reasons. Of course it encompasses several aspects that might not interest me for the purpose of this column.
When the early missionaries came to Malawi, they preached that our practices were not compatible with Christianity. Several theories of development appreciate the role of culture in development. The basic premise is that if culture is ignored, development in the society will be difficult to achieve. It is usual that several projects in the society are imposed upon but if given a chance, culture would drive every development project.
There are no clear priorities in Malawi’s cultural sector largely because there is little commitment to explore that avenue. However, there are several opportunities stemming from culture but unfortunately, such opportunities are yet to be explored. Culture, if properly utilised, could be a dynamo of local development through creation of jobs, infrastructure, improving communication and preservation of cultural assets.
I regard shrines as assets that we must pride ourselves in. I take particular interest in Khulubvi in Nsanje, a shrine believed to be sacred. This is Mbona’s shrine, a spiritual place where the ancestors used to pray to Chiuta for rain and redress of other calamities that befell the people. Oral tradition tells us that Mbona was a legendary figure who lived in the area during the period that Lundu Kingdom thrived. It is told that Mbona had the powers to create wells and forests. It is also said that Mbona was able to turn into guinea fowls to hide from enemies. Although Mbona was sophisticated, his uncle, Mlauli, possessed some magic too.
It is told how Mlauli was envious of Mbona that he wanted to kill his nephew. Weapons used to terminate Mbona’s life failed and he decided to reveal what would eventually kill him. He told Mlauli to cut his throat with a leaf of a reed; his head was cut and placed at Khulubvi where the shrine stands today. This story will be told several times but my concern is whether the Ministries of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture are doing enough to promote cultural tourism.
I wonder if the people of Nsanje have benefitted from the shrine economically. I wonder if there is internet café near Khulubvi. I wonder if there is electricity at Khulubvi. I wonder if there are clinics at Khulubvi and I still wonder if there are any activities taking place near Khulubvi.
The cultural sector is regarded as a luxury therefore resources aimed at improving the cultural sector are either minimal or do not exist at all. It has been argued several times that in the absence of resources, the cultural sector would benefit from other development projects by incorporating the dimension of culture.
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