It is Wednesday. Four days before the annual Evison Matafale Memorial Show in Blantyre. But the Black Missionaries are yet to confirm where the 16th edition of the memorial show will take place.
It was the same case last year. Possibly, this will be the case in years to come. The free-for-all Evison Matafale Memorial Show is under threat due to venue challenges.
Black Missionaries leader Anjiru Fumulani is worried that such a situation keeps on repeating itself every year.
“Since 2013, we have had challenges to access venues for the event,” explains Fumulani.
He says the problem started when the convenient Mankhokwe Ground at Chileka—home to the fallen reggae king, was fenced.
He says the Chileka Civil Aviation office is usually reluctant to offer them the venue due to security issues at Chileka Airport.
“It was worse last year when we were denied access to the venue. Instead, we were given a smaller one at Gadaga,” he says.
The Black Missionaries has been hosting the memorial event since December 2001, a month after the mysterious death of the reggae maestro who also formed the band months before his demise.
Matafale died on November 27 2001 while in police custody.
Since then, the reggae group has kept the promise of hosting the event annually.
Fumulani says the first memorial show was held ‘at a small venue’ near his house. He says the event was organised together with some Rastas based in Blantyre.
“The show attracted a lot of attention. So, the following year we had a similar event at the same venue. Several bands, mostly Rastas, performed until evening,” he says.
He says the venue hosted the event for the next three years. And patronage kept on increasing each year.
“In 2003, the patronage was massive because we had just released our first album (Kuimba Three) after the death of Matafale,” he says.
He says 2005 was the turning point as the then Black Missionaries promoter, the late Foster Mijiga, took a leading role in organising the event.
Mijiga brought his equipment, set up a big stage and invited several of artists, recalls Fumulani.
“It was well-organised that the venue was not suitable for such a big event. Even patronage was just too much for such a small venue.
“So, in 2006 we decided to move the event to civil Aviation Ground at Gadaga,” he says.
The event has been hosted at Gadaga up to 2009.
In 2010, the memorial show was moved to Mankhokwe Ground which is bigger than the civil ground.
But the civil aviation office fenced the venue in 2013 and since then the reggae group have had challenges to access it.
Last year, the group was denied of the Mankhokwe Ground. Instead, they were given the civil Aviation Ground.
This year, the band is even finding it difficult to have access to the civil ground.
“It’s two weeks now since we started negotiating for a venue at the civil Aviation ground, but we are yet to get confirmation,” he said on Wednesday.
Fumulani said the band is negotiating with civil aviation office to use the venue for the last time as they plan on finding an alternative venue.
“We need to inform our fans first that we will no longer be hosting the event here. So, as we are working on informing them we want to hold the event at Gadaga for the last time,” he says.
He says in future they plan to take the event either to BAT Ground or MDC Stadium.
“But we can’t just shift now because it requires a lot of negotiations to book a venue,” he says.
Fumulani says such a predicament has affected their preparations for the show.
He says even artists earmarked for performances are in dilemma to confirm their availability because of the same problem.
“As it is now, if everything fails we may end up holding the event at a nearby school ground,” he says.