Visual Arts Association of Malawi (Vaam) newly elected president Mike Chilemba has said the association needs to dig deeper to make its presence felt as currently it is playing second fiddle to other arts fields.
Chilemba, who is a lecturer of fine art at University of Malawi – Chancellor College said yesterday that he was happy to lead the association and that apart from opening networks to improve visibility, Vaam plans to introduce inter-regional art exhibitions.
“These exhibit ions are platforms where artists from the regions will hold joint exhibitions to sell their products here in Malawi,” said Chilemba.
He also said they are envisaging introducing Vaam awards just as other associations have done.
“Awards held in terms of motivation and on top of that they would enhance competition, visibility and activeness amongst artists,” said Chilemba.
On networking, Chilemba said Vaam needs to link up with other international organisations in Africa and the Western world.
“Examples of such networking can be achieved by embracing the power of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in development and marketing of creative products via platforms such as www.worldculturesconnect.com and www.visitingarts.org,” he said.
Chilemba said these platforms help expose artists to the global creative world with art development opportunities such as exhibitions, art sales and art residencies.
“Such connections raise both the country’s and individual artist profiles on the international scene,” said the Vaam President, who took over from Chrisford Chayera.
Chilemba also said he has plans to introduce Vaam members to e-commerce by setting up artist profiles and art sales online adding that this will increase visibility of the association and its artists.
He also said they are looking at skills development and capacity building where artists will be imparted with value addition knowledge through trainings so as to improve their productivity and critical creative thinking.
“If an artist is able to critically think when creating artworks, he or she is able to be innovative as such, competing on the world art market than just reproducing artworks. One needs to be innovative in order to be called an artist. Otherwise, they remain just craftsmen and craftswomen,” he said.
Chilemba observed that Vaam has been running all these years without establishing its own art galleries.
“It is my dream to work on establishing art galleries where Vaam artists will be showcasing their products to the society at large for sale and regional art galleries will be our target,” he said.
Chilemba, who is a visual artist with a passion on drawing, painting, sculpture and conceptual art, said Malawi has a lot of skilled visual artists but they lack value addition in both production and creative critical thinking.
He said Ministry of Education could help in improving the development of visual arts by imparting specialised art education in the Teacher Training Colleges which cascades to basic education.
“The same applies to secondary education which has just reviewed its curriculum and introduced creative arts as a subject,” said the fine art lecturer.
Chilemba said he was pleased that the government has priotised youth development in job creation and entrepreneurship via Community Technical Colleges.
“But my worry is that the arts have not been given a place in these colleges’ curricula. I am of the view that art is also a vocation and government can support art by including the arts in the community colleges curricula,” he said. Chilemba added:
“I don’t think that all our youth in the communities would like to do only carpentry, bricklaying, plumbing, motor vehicle mechanics and welding. We have creative and skilled artists in the communities who also need support from taxpayers’ money.”
He said that serious art training should not be left with the University of Malawi’s Fine and Performing Arts Department since it has very limiting admission conditions which puts most skilled youths at a disadvantage.
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