The maiden Malawi Cultural Festival (MacFest) brought together hundreds of artists from across Malawi in a fiesta like no other.
Postponed three times since last year, the K22 million State-financed event was welcomed with huge anticipation at the weekend, with people from all walks of life patronising fine and performing arts showcases.
Themed â€˜Unity in Diversityâ€™, the two-day festival, which started on Saturday evening, showcased poetry, paintings, sculptures, music, fashion, theatre and cultural dances, among many others.
Throughout the festival span, the main passage of Sapitwa Hall at Crossroads Hotel in Malawiâ€™s capital Lilongwe was the central zone of beautiful artworks, including paintings which arrested the eyes of Minister of Tourism and Culture Daniel Liwimbi.
Among the new names at the exhibition were Area 18-based Noah Kapitapita whose painting depicts a woman nursing a baby and Liwonde resident Matthews Chikapa who displayed a magnificent set of traditional chairs.
On the fashion front, fast-growing designer Lilly Alfonso and Fashion Malawi Edition (Fame) reigning champion Clemoh Sato led a list of four artists.
Elsewhere, Ben Mankhamba and the Zigzaggers Band opened the dance race of the day. The musician played Mama Africa which features a foursome of traditional dancers. The music hit climax on Sunday when the Black Missionaries blasted the hall.
Yet, gule wamkulu and other traditional dances were the mantra of the proceedings at Civo Stadium.
Other performances included poetry recitals by Nyamalikiti Nthiwatiwa and Q. Malewezi, folktales by Dyson Gonthi, a one-man play The story of the Tiger by Mbene Mbunga Mwambene of Nanzikambe Arts Theatre.
In random interviews, patrons commended government for bringing art and entertainment close to people.
â€œThe festival was great and long overdue. We ask government to hold the event every year. We have seen beautiful artistic work and we had an opportunity to meet various artists at one event,â€ said Limbikani Sangulani.
Liwimbi said his ministry was delighted to open the long-awaited event, saying it will become an annual fixture.
â€œAs government, we will do all we can to ensure this event is here every year but we need everyoneâ€™s support. If we support art, we are selling our artists and this will help them grow and create employment,â€ said the Minister of Tourism.
He reckons the festival can contribute to the growth of the countryâ€™s economy if properly utilised, citing Brazil, well known for its world-acclaimed Samba carnivals,Â as one of the success countries.
â€œIf well-supported, Macfest can help the art industry grow, thereby creating more jobs and contributing to economic growth of the country,â€ he said.
Liwimbi said the ministry will provide a favourable playground for all artists and push for the enactment of the cultural policy in Parliament. The policy, which has been gathering dust at Capital Hill for nearly a decade, seeks to protect artists and their works.
On the other hand, National Aids Commission (NAC) has said they want to see artists using their talent to talk about harmful cultural practices.