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Tapping into opportunities

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AMONG FIRST MALAWI RECIPIENTS—Makhumula-Mtimuni

In this modern world, where things keep on changing and moving at a fast pace, the creative industry has not been left out of the equation.

Things keep on changing on the market in all the spheres of the creative sector and, so, one has to be on their toes to stand out and be counted; otherwise, remaining inactive would make one redundant.

Artists in the country have shown their verve by working extra hard in their respective disciplines and although some still have more room for improvement, many are at par with the world.

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The creative industry has bemoaned the lack of support from both the government and the corporate world, unlike the case in other countries where art is given all the necessary support looking at its potential and immense contribution to development.

Today, the creative sector still bemoans the absence of the National Arts and Heritage Council (Nahec), whose bill is yet to be passed as it is still at the Ministry of Justice.

Tired with lack of progress on the bill and delays in having Nahec, which would help formalise the creative sector, creatives recently marched to Parliament where they presented a petition lobbying for the enactment of Nahec Bill.

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This was a second petition having also served another petition to the august House last year. It remains to be seen as to when the creative sector will see the light of the day on the bill.

And in the absence of Nahec, which is long overdue, arts associations are missing out on subvention from the government to run some of their programmes and even benefit from grants and other exchange programmes.

Many of the arts associations at the moment are relying heavily on donor funding and, with some operating without offices, things have been tough to earn funding from different sources.

Gone are the days when arts associations used to benefit from Cultural Support Scheme, which was being funded by Royal Norwegian Embassy and managed by Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma). With funding from Cultural Support Scheme, arts associations had offices and, apart from that, there were capacity building workshops.

It is not the case today when almost all arts associations have turned into beggars and although some have turned their attention to benefitting from membership fees, it has proved to be insufficient to oil operations.

But life has to go on for the creatives and they still have to manage their affairs with the little resources they have and hope that things would improve going into the future.

This brings us to the issue of being at par with the world;, creatives should not be rigid but try as much as possible to penetrate different channels and look for opportunities.

There are for sure other international platforms that offer support to creatives and it is thus a matter of just making applications to receive funding.

Easter Theatre Festival Director McArthur Matukuta said he has been sharing information on opportunities that creatives can tap into for funding.

“Some opportunities are only tied to associations or arts organisations and not individuals whereas others are open to both individuals and organisations. What we need to do is to keep on trying, there are times you fail to make it but it’s always important to try. Our friends in other countries are reaping rewards of these opportunities,” Matukuta, whose Solomonic Peacocks will be hosting Easter Theatre Festival in April 2022, said.

Recently renowned fashion designer Lilly Alfonso, who represented the country at Africa 4 Africa Women’s Conference in Zanzibar, Tanzania, said it was high time creatives in the country embraced social media platforms to look for opportunities.

“We just have to be active, let us not live in the past; our friends in other countries are all over because they are getting opportunities on social media. This is why whenever I attend these conferences I do not hesitate to share information. We need to grow and we can only do that when we remain active,” Alfonso said.

Another opportunity that has come up for creatives in the country is that of the Sound Connects Fund, which has already benefitted some Malawian creatives in the first call up namely Music Crossroads Malawi led by its director Mathews Mfune, Tumaini Letu led by Menes la Plume and University of Malawi led by Catherine Makhumula-Mtimuni.

The three attended one-week Music in Africa Sound Connect Fund conference in South Africa.

In the second call-up, organisers have since invited Malawi creatives and cultural organisations to apply for Sound Connects Fund.

A statement released recently says Music In Africa Foundation (MIAF), in partnership with Goethe-Institut, invites organisations operating in Southern Africa’s creative and cultural industries to apply for grants from the Sound Connects Fund. The second call for grant applications is now open and will close on the April 15 2022.

Made possible with funding from the ACP-EU Culture Programme, the fund is aimed at accelerating development in Southern Africa while increasing the capacities of practitioners in the region.

The statement says the fund supports projects across a wide range of disciplines including, but not limited to, performing arts, visual arts, animation, film, gaming, photography and videography.

Similar to the first call in 2021, applicants will be expected to speak to the theme of Sound Connects Us.

According to the statement, music and sound exist as the universal language that has connected people and communities globally for centuries and that it is clear that in Southern Africa’s vibrant cultural sector, sound is a significant force that connects and coexists within a wide range of art forms – in some instances playing a central role in fields such as dance, theatre, video, gaming, film, fashion and related industries.

Eligible projects

The statement says the fund will strategically seek to support projects and activities in the cultural and creative sector that facilitate the rapid production and distribution of quality goods within and outside the Southern African region, increase capacities among professionals, support rapid mobility and exchange among creators and enhance access to new markets.

“Interested organisations are urged to visit the Sound Connects Fund website for more information about the fund and the application process. You can also watch an in-depth video discussion about the Sound Connects Fund on MIAF’s Facebook Page and the How to Apply video on MIAF’s Youtube channel,” the statement reads.

The Sound Connect Fund is an initiative of the Music In Africa Foundation in partnership with Goethe-Institut South Africa and is made possible with funding from the ACP-EU Culture Programme – a project implemented by the secretariat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and funded by the European Union (EU). The Sound Connects Fund is also co-funded by Goethe-Institute South Africa and Siemens Stiftung.

In 2021, through the first call for grant applications, the Sound Connects Fund awarded grants worth more than €1.1m to 11 organisations based in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Lesotho and Malawi.

These recipients are currently implementing projects in music, animation, film, circus performance, financial management, digital media and hub development, which will run for various durations including eight, 12 and 18 months.

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