This week, one of the country’s renowned writers ShadreckChikoti had a moving post on his Facebook page.
He touched on the important and neglected subjects that Malawi should take seriously to safeguard history.
Reads Chikoti’s post in part: “It breaks my heart that I can’t find a decent picture of Gertrude Kamkwatira online. Her biography is hidden in some unreachable space. Her story is slowly drowning in the recesses of our hearts. Soon, there won’t even be a name to fumble into the dark about, there won’t be a name to ask questions or wonder about.
Yet, she stood shoulder to shoulder with giants once, towering above many a people. And this is not just her story. It is the story of Jolly Max, of Dede, of Anyoni, of Mwala and many others.
“In this process, we lose a part of ourselves every day, bleeding wounds of ignorance, allowing our flesh to be torn apart by each passing day. In these annals of history, we are like an animal that is gradually being skinned alive.”
Reading Chikoti’s Facebook post with critical lens, one sees the outcry of the fast dying history which Malawi to keep and treasure. In his ironic argument, Malawi is losing valuable history for lacking proper documentation and record keeping systems of the people who contributed to our history, including the arts.
Once upon a time, Malawi had a pool of talented artists, including musicians and dramatists, who were a force to reckon with. Through their unmatched talents and creativity, they made a huge contribution towards the foundation of the country’s creative industries.
However, going by events that happen in Malawi, very few fallen artists are remembered. The rest are buried and forgotten.
Apart from Black Missionaries Band which usually organises annual memorial shows for their founder Evison Matafale, the legacy of other fallen artists is slowly being wiped out.
In the few years to come no one, especially the younger generation, will know that Malawi had legends who paved the way for industries like music and theatre.
Arts commentator-cum-music promoter Samuel Chiwaka strongly feels that there should be deliberate efforts to safeguard the legacy of fallen heroes, including artists, in the country. He also challenged specific sectors of arts to advocate for the welfare of artists in the country.
“It should start with the people in position of authority like Musicians Association of Malawi to push for these agendas to the corridors of power and eventually things will change slowly.
For example, the way how government has shown its interest in Zodwa’s saga,they should do the same in the welfare of local artists by regulating the industry,” he said.
Chiwaka says safeguarding the legacy and lives of artists begins when they are alive by protecting their creativity.
He says: “For example, this can be achieved by putting in place and enforcing laws of local media houses playing 90% local content. Can you imagine how many local artists could benefit from royalties.
“And when foreign artists perform in the country, at least local acts should be getting one-third of what a visiting act is getting that is meant to benefit them. Because it’s unethical to pay a visiting act, let’s say K10 million and local acts K150 000 for the same show and expect their welfare to improve.”
Chiwaka cites the case of Matafale whose music is played to date, arguing that if there was sanity in the industry his family would still be benefiting from royalties.
Cultural activist Richard Muphuwa suggest that, just like a Martyrs Day, a special day (Fallen Artists’ Day) should be set aside to celebrate fallen artists in the country.
“There should be a Fallen Artists’ Day where works of dead artists should be remembered through performances of their works and part of funds realised be channelled towards music projects for young and up-and-coming artists, their orphaned children under the age of 21 or towards charity.
Another idea is to have a fallen artists exhibition day where paintings or any works are displayed of their life journey and their impact on society,” he says.
Gospel musician Lloyd Phiri concurred with Muphuwa on having a special day to honour fallen artists.
He said: “I mean, it is very important to preserve our history and the legacy of our fallen artists. We are where we are today because of history. Therefore, we need a special day where all artists should be remembered in Malawi.”