Some two or so weeks ago, environmental advocate Manota Mphande sounded an alarm on an issue that sent shivers down my spine.
Mphande, under his Art Malawi platform, is involved in a Mudi River clean-up initiative. With his team, they routinely clean waste along the Mudi River in Blantyre and areas surrounding it. Within the catchment area is the Blantyre Sports Club (BSC).
And on this particular weekend, this auspicious and elite venue played host to one of the most glamorous events that have taken place this year in Malawi: The Castel Malawi Shandie launch event in collaboration with Entertainers Promotions.
Headlining this event was Nigerian top urban artist Fireboy and renowned Malawian artist Onesimus. Expectedly, it was the youth who got caught up in the vibe of the event because of its profile. The make-up of the event had youth written all over it.
And come the day of the event, nothing happened to the contrary. The expansive green grass of the venue was filled by the youth in majority, with the presence of adults sparsely noticeable.
Come the next day after the event, the call to clean up the mess at BSC reached Mphande and his Art Malawi agents. Not that they complained. It is something that they are so used to now. In fact, the waste they remove from the Mudi River is more detestable.
But the update that Mphande made is the one that got me worried. Mphande noted a suspected drug indulgence among the patrons at the show. Sadly, most of them were youths.
His fears came from the sight of over 100 used syringes which were littered around the area. He also reported that members of his team and security personnel came across groups of youths injecting themselves with syringes.
It is inescapable that most youths find events such as the one that happened at BSC conducive to try new behaviours that they would not normally do on a normal day or with the knowledge of their parents and guardians.
They have completely mistaken the meaning of an art event and extracting fun from it in its pure and full form without using any particular substances. In the equation also comes peer pressure. A few rotten apples would want to contaminate the whole group.
The situation is not one we can run away from. Parents out there I am sure won’t issue a decree to say their wards should no longer attend such events. They need that for the nourishment of their general development as human beings.
From similar events, others pick out passions and develop talents which become useful to them in the latter stages of their lives. So, I won’t stand here to say entertainment events are bad and should be a complete no-go-zone for our youths.
What I am trying to reflect on now is the role that the curators of such events can play in trying to raise awareness against vices that have possible devastating effects on their lives. From such experiments, others get hooked on these substances for life.
If we consider this, we find that there is more we need to do at the preventive stage than when things get to a level where rehabilitation is the only answer. That’s where the artists themselves come in.
We cannot look away from something that is probably eating away the fabric of our future. The youth are the only investment we have now. Among them are our future netballers, footballers, actors, actresses and musicians.
Let the event organisers harness the potential that these events have as spaces to launch real advocacy against drug abuse. Many of these see models in these artists and in any case their word should carry weight.
If others choose to look away, then it’s fine. But the effort itself will mean more because as they say, a stitch in time saves nine.