Nearly K126 million was spent for this year’s Lake of Stars (LoS) Project, and an estimated 4 500 people attended the annual arts festival. Was the event bigger and better than last year? JOHN CHIRWA finds out.
With over 80 acts from 10 different countries, the 2015 Lake of Stars Festival was held last weekend at the palm-fringed shores of Lake Malawi.
Last year’s event was said to be bigger and better than years before—with over 70 acts and 4 200 attendees. An estimated 597 million people were reached through international, regional and local media, whereas $1.7 million (about K850 million) was generated for Malawi’s economy.
How about Lake of Stars 2015, where does it stand?
There have been mixed views on whether this year’s event has been any better, with most of the people interviewed indicating that the event was below par.
LoS follower Zandileinsizwa Kaimila of Lilongwe said he didn’t get value for his money.
“Uhuru’s performance has been the best, but there were some international artists such as Toya Delazy who failed to keep the show alive.
“Apart from that, there have been a lot of dull moments during the event. For example, this is 11am [on Saturday] but it is as quiet as a graveyard. We came here to have fun, but we are not getting our value for money.
“This is unlike last year where the festival was a bomb,” he said.
Another festival goer from Blantyre, Robin Mitole, observed that the biggest challenge with this year’s festival was selection of artists.
“The headliners for this year are not well known or are not at the peak of their fame. For example, Delazy is not as hot as is Cassper Nyovest or Davido at the moment. They need to bring artists who are at the peak,” he said.
Despite such criticism, the festival this year went beyond mere celebration of music. It was a meeting point of fashion, visual arts, poetry, dance and theatre where Mwezi Arts Children’s Theatre, Amahoro Drummers, Q Malewezi and The Vagina Monologues were some of the highlights.
For the first time, LoS involved locals through a community concert. However, the area’s village head Chipoka believes organisers need to do more in fulfilling the promises they made to construct an adult literacy school and a library.
Locals also feel that LoS needs to address issues of health and sanitation, more especially at the makeshift market near the venue.
But founder of LoS, Will Jameson, is unmoved by such criticisms. Going by the figures, he believes this year’s festival was the best.
He said last year, the event attracted 4 200 fun-seekers with 70 acts whereas this year they had 4 500 patrons with 80 acts.
He said an increase in the number of acts meant more artists were accorded an opportunity for international exposure.
“On our side, we believe the event was better this year. Things run smoothly, we had a bigger audience and more artists.
“If you check on our Facebook page you notice that people were happy with the festival. Everyone loved Uhuru, everyone loved Delazy and the main atmosphere. So, all we can say is that the event has been one of the best,” he said.
Jameson accused the media in Malawi of giving the festival negative publicity when the international media focuses on the positives.
“Over these years we have realised that negative publicity comes from Malawi, especially in arts reporting, but we need to look at the positive sides and focus on them,” said Jameson.
He said the positive side of the festival is that it has raked in over $4.7 million for Malawi’s economy since its inception in 2004.
“This year we had 200 international patrons, and on Monday we believe to have exact figures on how much has been generated for Malawi’s economy. But most definitely it will be more than last year’s $1.7 million,” said Jameson.
Minister of Information, Tourism and Civic Education Jappie Mhango has revealed government’s plans of prioritising such arts festivals with the hope of boosting Malawi’s economy.
He said his office carried out spot checks in Mangochi and found that “all known lodges were fully booked during the event”.
“This simply means that locals are benefiting from the festival in line with this year’s tourism theme ‘One billion tourists, one billion opportunities’,” he said.
Looking forward, Jameson asks fun-seekers to be on the lookout as they have already started planning for next year’s event to return even much better.