Malawi continues to suffer from disasters owing to effects of climate change and negative human activities.
Between 1974 and 2019, more than 25 million people in both urban and rural areas around the world, have been affected by floods, heavy storms, drought and dry spells which over the years have become more intense, frequent and unpredictable.
Facing such threats, various forms of interventions, both human and technological, have been employed with the hope of averting the disasters, mitigating its effects, cushion the populace and building resilience among communities.
From the many interventions that have been tried, the results have been variable, in the process making it hard to ascertain whether the battle is being won or not.
But a new form of intervention aimed at communicating flood vulnerability, reduction and good practice through arts is about to be unleashed. Tikonzekere Arts Contest is a new tool that has been created to engage people to discuss problems they face because of disasters through artistic creations that they and others create and share.
The contest’s co-director Maynard Nyirenda says: “One of the reasons the pattern and nature of the disasters that follow these hazards are becoming more and more destructive is lack of engagement of the affected communities to talk about how they can adapt to climate change.”
During the initial contest, various forms of art such as song-writing, poetry, storytelling, short video creation, photography and drawing will be used and each category have a separate overseer.
Fiction writer Ekari Mbvundula will take charge of the story telling category, filmmaker Charles Shemu Joyah will oversee short video creation, visual artist Elson Kambalu supervise the drawing category, musicians Waliko Makhala and Code Sangala will be in charge of the song-writing category while journalist Sam Banda Jnr is on photography and Paul Senzie on poetry.
Artistic director Bob Alexander a.k.a Barefoot Bob, said there are different ways that can be used to get people to think about what can be done and how things can change and art is one of those ways.
He said talk about the different problems that people are facing was there before the recent floods.
“And people were already writing songs on what can be done to reduce floods. So, we thought about hiring people to write songs about the issue and we felt getting the people themselves to write their own songs will be an effective way of doing it,” Alexander said.
He said this is a sure way of getting more people engaged and talking about the issue. He said their duty is just to give them the right information to help them understand the types of messages that might be helpful in the contest.
Said Alexander: “What we are trying to do here maybe complementary to some of the interventions that have been done before. We are just trying to build on it and learn. We are trying to create messages that are informed so that people can make up their own perceptions.”
Mbvundula said most of the documents that guide people on the issue of disasters are long and technical such that most people do not take time to read. She said artists can play a key role by transforming that information into some form of entertainment articles.
“Whether it is stories with gripping characters and plot lines that make you feel like you are there in person, or songs with catchy beats that can be repeated over and over again. Communication is our ultimate goal,” she said.
The contest is open to everybody and the criteria for choosing the winner will dwell on the technical quality, content, relevance and effectiveness of the messages.
Three finalists will be picked from each category. First prize winner will get K150 000, runner-up K100 000 while third-placed will get K50 000. The winners will also be assisted by professionally reproducing their winning materials. n