The fourth season of Blantyre Arts Festival was expected to be a thrilling journey through Malawiâ€™s vibe and culture, but that did not stop artists from turning it into a no lesser stage for disseminating HIV and Aids messages.
The human face of the pandemic shone from the beginning when co-director of ceremonies to the opening show Patience Kawinga confessed living with the virus despite looking energetic like any other person in the audience.
The Zambian actor-turned-TV presenter, who appeared on the third season of Ready for Marriage reality show, said she was once a sex worker and had a baby who contracted the virus and died because she continued breastfeeding it beyond six months to avoid stigma.
Meanwhile, she said, her parents used to give the baby some concoctions which might have exposed its digestive system to the incurable infection.
â€œLadies and gentlemen, there is life after being diagnosed with HIV. I am here because I took a bold decision to leave the streets for a healthier and more productive life in society,â€ opened up the Muvi TV presenter.
Being a celebrity and class woman, her testimony was more powerful than narratives of poor locals during Aids Awareness rallies in the country which create the misconception that the incurable disease is for the poor.
As it was during her involvement in Solomonic Peacocksâ€™ Seal of Confession tour in Lilongwe and Blantyre last month, Kawinga propagated abstinence, faithfulness, condom use and insistence on life-prolonging drugs in times of HIV and Aids.
Her efforts to create a world free from HIV and Aids-related stigma was complemented by Giddes Chalamanda.
In one of his three songs, the veteran singer urged abstinence as the surest preventive measure.
This was an early fulfilment of BAF board chairperson Alfred Msadalaâ€™s appeal for artists to incorporate HIV and Aids issues in their acts. In his untitled poem, the literary critic-cum-poet warned hearers to desist from risky lifestyle.
According to National Aids Commission, 10 in 100 people are living with the virus which causes Aids.
And many children are orphaned due to the pandemic. Swila Bakali, the street kid who stormed the country with the acoustic hit Kukana Tiyi Koma Kadansana, is a personification of the effects of orphanhood on children.
His story is adapted into the movie Babaâ€™s Song, but the Form 3 student shared his plight during his cameo at BAF.
In the song Amayi Anga, he delved into the loneliness, violence, discrimination and abject poverty that beset parentless children in the country.
Thumbs up to award-winning Ben Mankhamba for giving Bakali a home, enrolling him at Bedir Private Secondary School and polishing his creativity.