Visual artist Elson Kambalu says there is more that Malawi can tap from countries such as China to strengthen the arts and culture industries to effectively serve the country.
Kambalu won a trip to China in tax-payer funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Innovation award last month where he learnt several insights on arts and culture.
The arrangement was that he was at Zhejiang Normal University where he, in the company of artists, art teachers and art practitioners drawn from different parts of Africa, toured different places such as cities, museums and other places of interest.
Altogether, Kambalu visited seven cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and HangZou.
He described the trip as an eye opener and big lesson for Malawi as far as arts development is concerned.
“The idea behind the trip was to help us change mindset so that we must no longer see art as an option for failures, but rather the way of life for many young Malawians. And Malawi can do better if we embrace this perspective,” said Kambalu.
He said Malawi needs to formulate and enforce policies for art education in schools so that the country can start training teachers and children in arts.
“As citizens, we should also embrace a responsibility to discovering and nurturing artistic potentials in our children. Chinese people are organized.
“They have realised the importance of art so much that art and physical exercise subjects are compulsory subjects up to high school, both in public and private institutions. Malawi can do the same if we are to create vibrant arts and cultural systems,” said Kambalu.
From music to fine arts, children in China have equal opportunities to exploit their potentials in schools because they hold a strong belief that art enhances creativity and has the propensity to develop critical thinking once students have entered the employment sector.
“From the way buildings, roads and houses are designed in China, one can tell that even the engineers underwent some sort of art training in school. Everything is artistic and beautifully done with amazing designs. I learnt that by the age of six, Chinese people are bound to have mastered a certain instrument of some sort,” said Kambalu.
He said Malawi can learn from China right from the way the preserves its heritage through schools where kids are introduced to traditional instruments. The schools have vast collections of traditional instruments.
On architectural designs and road construction, China’s major cities have museums. Instead of thinking nationally, Kambalu said, China developed its museums that offer interesting stories of their cities.
“In China, even modern buildings are turned into works of art so much that you would pay to see the inside of either an Olympic stadium or the tallest building in the world. In Malawi, we could be talking of Chayamba or Kang’ombe buildings.
“China also preserves old historical buildings. One example is the preservation of the Great Wall, which was built between 3 BC and the 17th century and is 21 000 kilometers long. They have managed to maintain it and one can pay almost 10 dollars just to visit and climb on it,” said Kambalu.
Ministry of Sports and Culture said it is ready working with artists such as Kambalu when the need arise.
“Such trips are of great significant when it comes to designing some of the arts and cultural programmes in Malawi. And definitely government is ready to work with artists such as Kambalu when the need arise,” said Christopher Mbukwa, spokesperson of Ministry of Sports and Culture. n