Poet Chigo Gondwe-Chokani says low representation and inadequate performance time affects Malawi poetsâ€™ involvement in the Poetry Africa at Blantyre Arts Festival (BAF).
The Lets Start a Revolution poetess and Nyamalikiti Nthiwatiwa will be on show on Saturday when the poetry movement from the University of KwaZulu Natal (KZN) Centre for Creative Arts arrives at the French Cultural Centre in Malawiâ€™s commercial city, Blantyre, for the festival.
According to the Poetry Africa organisersâ€™ website, the crew includes South Africaâ€™s Pedro Espi-Sanchis and Ewok, Kenyaâ€™s Philo Ikonya, Ghanaâ€™s Nii Ayikwei Parkes and Jamaicaâ€™s Dâ€™bi Young.
However, Chigo said in an exclusive interview she had considered withdrawing because the number of local poets showcasing at the festival is not representative of Malawiâ€™s poetry movement, and stage time assigned to them falls short of empowering them and limits the extent to which they can share their art with the visiting poets.Â She might, however, speak her mind on this when she jumps on stage Saturday evening.
â€œTo me, it does not make sense to have all these artists coming into the country but only two or three local performers in the team. Local poets will get about five minutes on stage while our overseas colleagues will perform longer. What experience will they take home of our poetry? The oversight by BAF organisers undermines the wealth of literary talent our country has, especially considering that this is a local festival,â€ said the poetess, who is expected to recite a new poem, They Have Come to Colonise Us Again.
She also lamented that poets often get meagre appearance fees.
In a separate interview, Nyamalikiti said Chigo has a point â€œbut it is something that can be agreed upon.â€ However, he could not discuss the pay issue because information from organisers was scanty.
Â â€œUp to now, we donâ€™t know our colleagues on the team, the duration of our act, what happens afterwards and how much we will be getting,â€ said Nyamalikiti.
The Kanga Ndiwamba maker made his Poetry Africa debut alongside Chigo and Q Malewezi in 2010. He said then locals were told what to expect for their toil although they signed their contracts on the performance date.
Q will miss this yearâ€™s do, but thinks Malawians must not be restricted to the subordinate roles at BAF.
Â â€œI think that by now, we have what it takes to be on the tour and not just to represent Malawi when the tour comes through,â€ he said in an interview.
However, the trio described it as an honour to be part of the project, saying it facilitates a unique exchange of ideas and cultures with the crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me from the continent and beyond.
According to its official Facebook page, BAF envisions unifying and promoting Malawian arts and culture through interactive capacity-building events that lead to artistic liberation and socio-economic empowerment.
Minister of Tourism and Culture Daniel Liwimbi said he would use the launch to commend the festival for bringing high profile performersâ€”including Poetry Africa and Malian music great Salif Keitaâ€”as well as ensuring one institution attends next yearâ€™s World Youth Theatre gathering in Germany.
We want to promote arts, entertainment and culture to boost tourism. We hope the festival will help establish an international network,â€ said Liwimbi.