Time and again, we hear of folks crying for Malawi’s endangered arts. Scribes have written about it to a point they are running out of ink, while broadcasters are slowly running out of words of enticing people to revive the endangered arts that portray our rich cultural heritage.
Chief among the reasons for dragging Malawi’s cultural heritage to its near demise has always been technology, an unnatural phenomenon that has brought more questions than answers in almost all aspects of life in the country.
But technology is a double edged sword. Where others see thorns, others see roses. This is the story with computer technology which, among other things, has brought sophisticated software that only causes splitting headaches in others while others manipulate them and achieve greatness.
In 2015, a music video that epitomised how the ability to manipulate softwares can inspire a generation of artists was released in Malawi. It was not the most expensive neither was it directed by an international videographer. But that did not stop it from making history as it was dabbed as the first animated music video in Malawi.
The video prompted a lot of conversation on social media, Mesho became a hit, Excess, the man behind the rhymes in the video, benefited.
Today, two years after the video was released, 26-year-old Dawson Kawerawera, the man who produced the animated music video, is yet to produce another one and he narrates some of the challenges that could nip such an art in the bud.
“When I produced the Mesho music video two years ago, there was no platform, I had to do everything on my own to produce an animated video, something that is traditionally done by a team.
“Working as a team reduces the workload on an individual and increases the potential for creativity, if you look at the credits of an internationally produced animation you will see scores of people’s names who worked on the video,” said Kawerawera in an interview.
Kawerawera, who juggles 3D animation with videography and singing, says he dreams of a day when Malawian 3D artists will come together to work on something on a large scale.
While Pixar, Walt Disney animation studios and DreamWorks Animation strive in building teams with professionals to make animations, a Malawian 3D artist works in solitude.
He laments: “Animation is a challenging field, it requires resources in terms of computing power and demands diligence from the artist. In Malawi you have to rely on your own limited resources.
“As of now, we still don’t have institutions that teach the trade, the only way I learn is through YouTube videos and books online. It’s a slow process and not good enough for someone who wants to become a professional in the field,” he said.
Kawerawera adds that with such challenges, 3D artists in Malawi venture into other professions in search of greener pastures as the trade is not well established enough to earn enough money for dairy survival.
For this reason, he also ventured into videography and singing. As a videographer, he has worked with Steve Spesho, Miracle Chinga and Phat Lu while he signed under Abstract Records as a singer and has released four singles so far.
Apart from Excess’s Mesho animated video, the Ndirande-based multi-talented young man is also behind the powertex animated advert which has been airing on Times Television since 2016.
“I worked with Sukez and Hago on the powertex advert but in recent years I have been focusing on learning other trades like videography and singing. On August 9 this year Phat Lu’s Galu wadula chain video was released where I used Kelvin Sulugwe’s Kanopy life equipment and I am also working on Steve Spesho’s and Miracle Chinga’s video set to be released soon.
“The time spent on these other endeavours hinders our growth as 3D artists and for that reason 3D art in the country is progressing slower than a snail trying to get across a mud field,” he lamented.
A few weeks ago, Faith Mussa, one of the most established gospel artists in Malawi blamed several producers for failing to stand the pressure and running away with his money before producing his Mdidi animated video.
The video was later produced successfully by Justice Mkumba who described the project as a creative gift to Malawians.