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Theatre body under fire

National Theatre Association of Malawi (Ntam) executive has come under fire from some quarters who say that they are doing nothing to raise the theatre bar which continues to go down.

The critics say that Ntam has not improved since the executive led by renowned actor Manasseh Chisiza and his deputy Joyce Mhango Chavula took over power.

“I was expecting a lot from the executive to uplift Ntam but also lift theatre. At the moment there is nothing on the ground, drama groups continue to die and eventually we will only have a few,” said the actor, who declined to be named.

He said he has been in theatre for years and that the past drama groups were active and performing in numbers but today there are only a few.

“As Ntam they needed to look at all these issues, things need to change. Look at our friends in other artistic fields, they have come out strongly, I am talking about artistic fields like poetry they have surpassed us and yet theatre was way up, we need to solve all these challenges and yet there is nothing the executive is doing,” said the actor.

Another actor said that the other artistic fields have created their own festivals but there is none on the ground created by Ntam.

“Look at the way poetry has gained ground, they were way down but they have made huge steps, today they have a festival which has given them the platform and why can’t theatre do the same?” questioned the actor.

He said that so far there were only a few groups which are active and are trying their level best to put theatre in the limelight.

“For instance in drama in Chichewa, it is only Kwathu which has stood out, all the other groups are silent. At least in drama in English there is a good number but we need more. If Solomonic Peacocks for instance managed to raise funds and hold a festival what can fail a theatre body? We are not serious at the moment and a lot needs to be done,” said the actor.

Chisiza admitted that the body has been dormant and that other artistic fields have overtaken them citing poetry.

“It is true; our friends in poetry have done a lot recently. We are trying as well to put ourselves way up and we really need to improve in a lot of areas and we need to build up our capacities,” he said.

He further said that as an executive they have formed subcommittees, one of which he said is there to mobilize resources.

“You will agree with me that these days everything needs resources. So this committee will work day and night to develop proposals to raise funds. We are also trying to work together and organise festivals at national, regional and district levels as one way of winning the audience,” said Chisiza.

He also revealed that Ntam is working on a compilation of very good plays by their member playwrights.

“If funds permit we also want to do entrepreneurship training for our members and this is all about capacity building. Actually in Karonga we are also trying to talk to relevant authorities on the dilapidated town hall. As an association we need to own such facilities which we can be using in generating income,” said Chisiza.

Chisiza also said that they recently held a safe abortion workshop with actors from different drama groups and that now a concept is being developed.

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