Jah people, a friend in need is a friend indeed.
Not when dealing with movers and shakers of the entertainment sector.
They are business brains like any other. To them, a friend in need is not funny. They seldom say this explicitly. Sometimes, they use sweet words to sugarcoat the bitter truth. They are no menders of poor souls and ailing economies.
The case in point is Lake of Stars (LoS) Arts Festival.
Good people, it is official that the internationally acclaimed tourism event will not return to the picturesque shores of Lake Malawi this year.
Regular pilgrims will have to accept that festival founder Will Jamieson and his team want to concentrate on European fiestas to raise traffic to the festival and Malawi’s tourism attractions.
The good news, they say, is that Lake of Stars will be back for the 15th anniversary next year.
But this is public relations—good to every ear not ready for the real burning issue.
US president Bill Clinton’s campaign slogan said it all: “It is the economy, stupid.”
Read beyond the hugely diplomatic epistle from the LoS impresario.
The country’s economy is in shambles and hosting the 14th edition does make business sense.
And Jameson hinted this last year when the fiesta returned to its birthplace, Chintheche Inn in Nkhata Bay, after almost a decade of wandering off to the southern shores of the palm-fringed lake.
The figures are not adding up any more. The price has stagnated for years. The turnout is not growing either. The returns are stunting.
This could be a tactical withdrawal of the festival which unites scores of nations on the stunning shoreline of the freshwater lake—injecting millions of dollars into the economy in the process.
There goes the multi-million dollar marriage of tourism, arts, entertainment and culture.
And the forthcoming Europe edition of Lake of Stars could be simply ‘commodifying’ and exploiting the lake for some gain while Malawians snore.
Why is the nation so timid to use its lake and priceless endowments to buttress the fragile economy?
There is only one Lake of Stars globally.
It is the same Lake Malawi which Scottish missionary explorer Dr David Livingstone so nicknamed at first sight in 1859.
Festival directors will never export the lake to the banks of River Thames.
Some Malawian artists may fly to the overseas edition, but the country will get a few crumbs falling off Jameson’s high table.
The nation has lost its grip on the swashbuckling brand that is Lake Malawi because no one seems to see the gold underneath the sands.
The lake is home to nearly 1 000 fish species, including the flagship chambo.
And the world says it is good.
But Malawians import some bizarre spear-headed fish in the name of our own famous blue-headed bream.
But the producers of the odd chambo from Kariba are not selling ice to Eskimos.
They are hitting gold where Malawians curse clay.
LoS organisers have the liberty to take their festival anywhere they wish. It is their cash cow.
The country must put its house in order because a sickly economy has the muscle to scare away investors.
And they have every right to put their money where it will bring those profits and smiles, not regrets.
LoS first pulled out in 2012 when Malawians had to do with an economy battered by lack of good governance, food, forex and fuel.