Sweat oozing. Placards hovering in the air. Traditional dances and live music amplified from the booming megawatts speakers of the moving truck, was the mood discharged by artists on Monday under the escort of the Malawi Police Service (MPS) officers as they marched from Lilongwe Community ground to Parliament Building via Mchesi.
Attracting the admiration of onlookers, this was a peaceful walk aimed at delivering a petition to move the Members of Parliament (MPs) to table and pass the long-awaited National Arts and Heritage Council Bill into law.
The popular venercular adage, which goes ‘Mwana wosalira amaferakumbuyo’ (a child who does not cry dies of hunger at the back of her mother) spiced it all.
“This is a cry to our Parliamentarians, who are our mother, to give us the food we want. We have been crying for a long time, but to no avail.
“We have tried contact and dialogue through lobbying meetings but we haven’t been heard. So, today, we are here to deliver this petition. This is not the first time to do this,” said leader of the delegation Maxwell Chiphinga.
The petition was successfully delivered to the Parliament through MP Thoko Tembo, who underscored the importance of arts and culture in the country.
To demonstrate the powerful role of arts in people’s lives, Tembo asked the artists to dish few songs right at the Parliament Building. And the musicians Ethel Kamwendo and Dan Lu did not disappoint when they performed Pamene Waimapo and Holy Ghost Fire effortlessly.
President Lazarus Chakwera has also, on numerous occasions, applauded the country’s artists and committed to uplift the arts and heritage.
He once decribed Malawi as “home of sweet sounds and traditions” that need to be promoted and safeguarded jealously. The President also honoured legendary musician Giddes Chalamanda describing him as one of Malawi’s living treasures.
The fruitful walk attracted artists from different rights holder associations such as Musicians Union of Malawi (MUM), Poetry Association of Malawi (PAM), Chewa Heritage Foundation (Chefo), Film Association of Malawi (Filma), Blantyre Arts Festival (BAF) and Photographers Association of Malawi (Photama).
The taskforce highlighted that the NAHEC Bill once passed into law will have direct economic benefits for Malawi and contribute to creation of one million jobs and 2063 agenda.
“The Arts and Cultural Heritage sector in Malawi has all along been pushing the government of Malawi to ensure that there is an Arts and Cultural
Heritage Council in Malawi. It is with this regard that the arts and cultural Heritage sector is requesting the parliament to table, discuss and possibly to pass the National Arts and Cultural Heritage Council (Nahec)
Bill during tis current sitting of Parliament.
“We are requesting the Parliament if they can consider the importance of Nahec as it is the centre point of our co-existence with other human beings in our communities, outside our communities as well as with our environment.
“Most importantly, arts and culture are key for poverty reduction and sustainable economic development which are pillars of the 2063 agenda,” said Chiphinga.
Generally, heritage in Malawi is exemplified by national monuments, artefacts, relics, museums and cultural expressions including music, folklore, crafts, the fine arts and traditional dances, language, literature and religion.
This policy document strives to formally establish the mechanism that the Malawi Government must follow to adequately fulfil its programme to deliver arts and heritage 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) and the newly-launched agenda 2030 and 2063.
In the past few years, the Malawi Government began to strengthen the Department of Culture. The Acts of Parliament governing the activities of the departments of Antiquities, the Museums of Malawi and the National Archives of Malawi were revised. Further, the Department of Arts and Crafts and Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) were established. The Department of Arts and Crafts founded a national dance troupe. The strengthening of these cultural divisions must be the major thrust of Malawi’s Arts and Heritage law.
However, Chiphinga said Malawi is the only country in southern Africa which does not have a National Arts and Heritage Council.
“We would like to request Parliament to take a bold decision within the existing laws of the land to enact Nahec with structures which allow council’s establishment in Malawi.
It is important to note that the enactment of NAHEC will have many benefits including creating jobs for the youth and amplifying tourism and culture,” said Chiphinga.
In terms of GDP, findings reveal that Arts and Culture has ernomous contribution. For example, in 2013 and 2015, the Malawi National Statistical Office (NSO) reported that arts and cultural Heritage sector contributed around 3.7 percent to the country’s GDP.
Minister of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife Michael Usi said Tonse Alliance is ready to advance the country’s arts and heritage. Meanwhile, majority of members of Parliament including Usi and leader of Government Richard Chimwendo Banda, Tembo and others have shown commitment to support Nahec because it has a direct cultural and economic benefit to the 2063 agenda and youth empowernment.
“Arts and culture employs alot of young people in Malawi. We have musicians, painters, actors, poets and dancers who have created employment for themselves. But they need programmes that should spur the growth of their talents,” said Usi.
President of film makers in Malawi Gift Sukez Sukali said the establishment of Nahec will be a huge milestone by the government that will contribute to the development the country’s arts and culture sector.