Malawians, including arts associations, who have been eagerly waiting for the enactment of the Cultural Policy, should exercise patience because there is a long winding road before the document becomes operational.
After many years of gallant fight by the country’s artists, Cabinet mid this year adopted the 2012 Cultural Policy Draft, which seeks to establish a framework for promoting and preserving the country’s culture.
The then Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture Kondwani Nankhumwa said the Cultural Policy was long overdue; hence, the decision to take it to the cabinet level for adoption.
However, days have graduated into weeks and weeks into months with nothing tangible as a way forward on the Cultural Policy. This has prompted artists and other concerned individuals to question the government, through the Ministry of Sports and Culture, whether the Cultural Policy will see the light of the day.
“Many countries are doing fine when it comes to issues of promoting and preserving culture because they have the backing of their governments. Their cultural programmes are driven by the Act of Parliament that’s why they are vibrant and relevant.
“This is the same thing that we want to happen in Malawi. Government should be on the forefront promoting and preserving culture with the private sector playing a complementary role. But the absence of Cultural Policy is eating away the value and essence of culture,” said Alfred Msadala, chairperson of the Blantyre Arts Festival (BAF).
The main goal of the country’s Cultural Policy is to establish and harmonise the mechanism that the government must follow to adequately fulfill its programme to deliver cultural services to all Malawians in line with the need to strengthen our cultural identity in the face of foreign influences as envisaged in the vision 2020.
It takes into account the need to support poverty reduction initiatives as developed in the Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (MPRSP) and the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS).
In the past few years, the Malawi Government began to strengthen the Department of Culture. The Acts of Parliament governing the activities of the Divisions of Antiquities, the Museums of Malawi and the National Archives of Malawi were revised.
Further, the Division of Arts and Crafts and Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) were established.
The Division of Arts and Crafts founded a National Dance Troupe.
Experts argued that the strengthening of these cultural divisions was a major driving force to the enactment of Malawi’s Cultural Policy.
However, director of culture in the Ministry of Sports and Culture Elizabeth Gomani Chindebvu said there were further steps that were supposed to be taken before the document become operational.
“First of all, the Cultural Policy has to become an Act of Parliament in order to be operational and effective. And its adoption by the Cabinet remains a giant step towards this. But now we need to conduct regional consultative meetings with stakeholders in order to produce a comprehensive bill. These are requirements before the Cultural Policy is taken to Parliament in order to be in operational mode,” said Chindebvu.
Among other important strategies of Cultural Policy, it seeks to encourage public and independent radio stations to increase airtime and programmes on traditional or local music; create a National Cultural Trust Fund and part of its resource mobilisation strategy; and raise sales levy on sales of Malawian art work.
However, the slow pace at which the Cultural Policy is going has cast doubts whether Malawi will meet the demand of vision 2020 on cultural promotion and preservation as stipulated in its Cultural Policy Draft.
Malawi has a rich and diverse cultural heritage demonstrated by national monuments, museums and cultural industries including music, folklore, crafts, arts and traditional dances. If this culture is well developed, it has potential to provide a viable strategy for poverty reduction, tourism attraction, sustainable socio-economic development and a source of increased sense of national identity and unity and any other human endeavour. n