In a country where the creative industry is sidelined and given little attention, in terms of support, creatives continue to sweat and going about their business, hoping for light at the end of the tunnel someday.
And, with all these challenges, there are creatives who continue to look for ways of how to support fellow creatives and the industry in order to bring about the best on the market and open up international opportunities.
It has been said, now and again that the country has immense talent but there is still lack of adequate support to build this talent so as to compete on the international stage.
In a country where most creatives are riding on inborn talent, things are failing to work for them because they lack some of the necessary skills such as management to grow these talents.
There are creatives who are so passionate about raising the profile of artists in the country and even help them to excel and they have even sacrificed their other projects that their families created for them for the development of arts and culture.
This is how deep some creatives love the creative sector and one such person is Tammy Clare Mbendera, who has already made a giant step by creating Festival Institute, which is a creative education platform for skills enhancement and sustainable job creation in arts in Africa.
A former core business services associate with global assurance firm, EY formerly Ernst and Young, Tammy has a unique combination of technical and creative skills in business and arts management as well as corporate experience in people/performance management.
With a robust 20 years of experience in service industries, ranging from catering and hospitality, human resource management and communication, Tammy has been everything from a former chef at the prestigious Nottingham University to radio DJ at Capital FM before finding her creative niche as project manager and company secretary for Lake of Stars Festival between 2008 and 2015.
Her paces in the creative sector did not end there as she made yet another huge step as festival coordinator for Africa’s most lauded MTN Bushfire Festival in eSwatini. This festival hosts 30,000 people over three days annually.
She worked for the festival which has also hosted several renowned acts from 2016-2020.
Tammy also prides in being the founding coordinator for MTN Bushfire’s subsidiary artisanal sister festival, Standard Bank Luju Food and Lifestyle Festival, both, in Malkerns, eSwatini.
She says that during her tenure in eSwatini, she also served as tour coordinator for Igboda Southern African Music Festivals Circuit, which toured artists such as Asa (Nigeria), Hugh Masekela (South Africa), Muete (Germany), Salif Keita (Mali) and Blitz the Ambassador, to name a few.
Tammy describes herself as an expert brands and experiential curator and part time writer.
“I grew up in two different lives. The first, one of extreme priviledge in a loving home with parents who I think were, themselves creatives. My dad has thousands of books and I picked up his love for reading from him, spending lots of time in his library if I ran out of my own books to read. My mum was a radio presenter at Malawi Broadcasting Corporation and the first Lhomwe newsreader in the country,” she said.
She further said that she spent a lot of time with her mum as she was compiling radio shows.
“She also loved poetry. So, naturally, we also grew up with a keen interest for everything arts and culture. I never really had a career path or any idea what I wanted to do, being an artist. My first insight into a creative job was when I watched Generations on Television and saw what goes on in an advertising firm,” Tammy recalls.
She said this was exciting for her to learn that there are options for her and her talents.
“My mum discouraged me because she said there was no money in it, however, being an introvert, my parents with the help of my teachers at school encouraged me to write my thoughts, feelings and expressions, so I continued to write,” Tammy, who crafted her first poem at the age of nine, said.
Tammy’s second life was after she lost her parents and lost everything to various property grabbers.
“I was 15 years then and sought sponsorship to go to the United Kingdom where I worked from kitchen assistant to eventually Chef de partie. I think that is where I really became exposed to events. We catered to on average 1000 people a night and hosted prominent people including then British Prime Minister Tony Blair and England football team of 66 commemoration dinner,” she said.
She then moved back to Malawi at the age of 22 years and worked briefly as a chef at a hotel in Blantyre while also doing part time writing for a friend’s online magazine.
“One day I was covering a Black Rhino event for the magazine and chanced upon the then Lake of Stars Festival manager Harry Gibbs and he noticed me talking to a lot of artists. That gave me an opportunity to be a part of Lake of Stars as an intern,” Tammy said.
On the Festival Institute, Tammy says it aims to provide aspiring creative practitioners with accredited and transferable professional skills for a sustainable creative industry.
“For me, Festival Institute is an opportunity to emulate the hiring policies of global firms like EY to develop highly functioning employees. Similar to such firms, I want to use creative platforms as opportunities to offer real on the job learning to people who usually are capable but cannot afford to pay for such experience,” she said.
Tammy observes that out of a festival, you can develop legal experts from contracting processes and risk management.
“You can develop financial managers from onsite accountants and tellers; you can develop tour managers from artists liaison departments. Hugh Masekela almost poached one of my Bushfire employees to become their tour manager because he was impressed with her work ethics,” she said.
Tammy said there are thousands of opportunities out there for creatives only if they could have some business experience.
“This is the gap that I am looking to fill with Festival Institute. A platform that creates jobs but also develops certified skills that can be transferred into other jobs in the future.
I also want to provide resources for creatives in the industry even for creative entrepreneurs, basic knowledge of business practices and etiquette is crucial for the sustainability of their creative business,” she said.
Tammy said they were looking into various spheres including grants and sponsorships for creatives and that all this needs business discipline and that they were also working on a business tool for creatives in the industry.
“It is basically business management for creatives. Long-term, I would like to develop an entire learning institution that hones skills in different sectors all for the growth of creative sector,” she said.
Festival Institute which has since partnered with Music Crossroads Malawi to host the inaugural Pakhonde Ethno Music Camp in Lilongwe in May, Tammy said they also have The Business of Music in their tray.
“This is a publication on the Malawi Music Industry Value Chain based on a research project we were granted by Rei Foundation Limited in conjunction with Unesco which is a very important tool for musicians and aspiring musicians,” she said.
Ending it all, Tammy said skills development and learning resources for the creative sector were key to stimulating the African creative economy.