More than thrice a week, standup comedians Chindime and Phungwako and musician Skeffa Chimoto hit the road to entertain fun-starved communities and vendors in various trading centres.
They have been hired by the National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust to provide civic entertainment in the ongoing National Registration and Identification System (NRIS) project.
Nice uses any mode of theatre and entertainment to disseminate messages, or to conscientise citizens with a critical consciousness crucial to the struggle against the forces responsible for poverty.
Street theatre and music trusts in the strength of the word of mouth through people who face the situation or are part of a project.
It aims to reach people who wouldn’t attend a workshop or watch a play, thus the coverage of addressed people can be even higher and social change is another step closer.
Mercy Levison, 24, of Dzoole Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Dzoole in Dowa is one of the citizens who have patronised street performances organised by Nice.
Levison admits that civic entertainment does not only make people aware of their various rights, roles and responsibilities, but also helped them become active citizens in the development process by expressing their viewpoints and acting to better their conditions.
“I like the way the artists are presenting the issues under discussion through their plays or music. The plays or music are composed and created in such a way that the audience feels part of the problem under discussion and the need for them to take part in addressing it,” she explains.
Nice national programmes manager Gray Kalindekafe says his organisation employs spokenword drama or comedy, music, singing and/or dance production and participatory or improvisational techniques using any or all of these to build awareness about critical topics.
The topics range from political rights, right to development and good governance, among others.
“Besides, Nice also hires to tackle common topics such as civic and voter education, hygiene, women’s rights, and active citizenship, among others. Art has proven to be an effective tool for driving home the right information to our intended audience,” he acknowledges.
Kalindekafe says with funding from the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP), Nice has now engaged a number of artists across the country to help in delivering the right information and messages on the national identity card registration project.
This follows revelations that some communities in Dowa, Kasungu and Ntchisi had formed negative perceptions towards the [national ID registration] programme.
Kalindekafe says the first phase of the programme and mass mobilisation campaign were characterised by mystical and political speculations, particularly in Dowa, Kasungu, Mchinji and Ntchisi where the phase was implemented.
In Kasungu, for instance, communities held the notion that the national registration and identification programme was a strategy by some politicians to rig the 2019 and successive elections.
While on the religious front, some faiths linked the exercise to the mysterious and biblical number, 666, as recorded in Revelation 13:1, 17-18.
The number, or name, represents a wild beast with seven heads and ten horns that comes out of the sea.
It is a symbol of the worldwide political system, which rules over every tribe and people and tongue and nation.
And according to Revelation 13:7, the name 666 identifies the political system as a gross failure in God’s sight.
However, some faiths linked 666 to the national registration exercise, saying it heralded the end of the world.
Yet, other communities speculated that government or some shrewd politicians want to use pictures captured in the registration process to justify their appeals for financial or material support from other countries.
“But using art, we have managed to change people’s mindset towards the project. People are now flocking to registration centres in large numbers such that even the registration officers are overwhelmed. And this is what we aimed for,” he concludes.
Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Grace Chiumia told journalists in Lilongwe on Wednesday that at least 95 percent of Malawians have registered against the targeted 1.7 million registrants.
Chiumia acknowleged that this would not have been possible without the innovation of Nice to mobilise masses of Malawians to change their perception towards the exercise.
Said Chiumia: “Thanks to great team efforts, dedication and hard work, we could deal with most of these challenges instantly, and we continue to do so. We also recognise the crucial job that was done from the outset by the Nice [National Initiative for Civic Education] Public Trust in mobilising masses of Malawians to register.”
A representative of development partners supporting the NRIS project Kikkan Haugen said national identity cards provide Malawi with a strong cornerstone for country’s ‘continuing socio-economic development’.n