Itâ€™s crammed with stars and famed for their profuse acts. But what awaits fun-seekers at Blantyre Arts Festival (BAF) this Friday night is no same old story.
Having graduated from a high-priced tale of three venues, the three-day cultural encounter is back at French Cultural Centre (FCC) in Malawiâ€™s commercial city, Blantyre, with a towering task to beat its own history.
Among others, the fair boasts previous headliners such as Jamaican dub poet Mutabaruka and Mbira superstar Oliver Mtukudzi.
By 8pm, all eyes will be on Golden Voice of Africa, Salif Keita, debuting on the same stage as Black Missionaries in what is already billed as a promising start. However, the festivalâ€™s success does not just depend on the Malianâ€™s top-billing opener but whether the vibe will live on until Sunday.
Previously, BAF organisers have killed the festival prematurely by pooling top-rated acts on one night and spacing competing performances nearly three kilometres apartâ€”with one at College of Medicine along Mahatma Gandhi Road and the other at The Warehouse downtown Blantyre.
This time, festival coordinator McArthur Matukuta saidthey have put together two itineraries for about 500 artists at the FCC: one for the auditorium and the other for the open theatre which hosted Mutabaruka and the star-studded Poetry Africa crew in 2010.
â€œThe number of groups has increased by 10 percent from last year and the population of artists has increased tremendously from the 60 we had at BAF inception in 2009. This shows the festival is growing and we are proud to see artists of different fieldsâ€”musicians, dramatists, poets, painters and dancersâ€”coming together to entertain and celebrate their cultures on one venue,â€ said Matukuta, adding the K2 million renovation of the FCC ended on Tuesday.
With all the music destined for the amphitheatre, the must-sees in the auditorium Friday night will be veteran poet Benedicto Wokomaatani Malunga reciting his offering alongside Q Malewezi, Silvester Kalizangâ€™oma, Joseph Madzedze, Evelyn Pangani, Michael Benjala, Hudson Chamasowa and Dikamawoko.
In 2010, Q was part of the Poetry Africa. The multinational group, featuring South Africaâ€™s Pedro Espi-Sanchis and Ewok, Kenyaâ€™s Philo Ikonya, Ghanaâ€™s Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Jamaicaâ€™s Dâ€™bi Young, will be on show Saturday night with locals Chigo Gondwe-Chokani and Nyamalikiti on the cast.
Throughout its span, BAF will house visual artists who hitherto have no State-owned exhibition hall. According to curator Elson Kambalu, in the gallery will be artworks by legendary Eva Chikabadwa, Peter Ndyani, David Mzengo, Ellis Singano, William and Sudi Mwale, Rodrick Makuluni and George Mkumbula.
Â â€œOurs is a special show, featuring 12 contemporary Malawian artists under the theme â€˜Thou Art Freeâ€™. Supporting this exhibition shall be artists and craftspeople from different parts of the country,â€ said Kambalu.
On Sunday, Zimbabweâ€™s Pastor G will play a starring role in a Sunday shutdown show featuring the top-selling Ethel Kamwendo Banda, Thocco Katimba and Limbani Simenti.
It will run concurrently with Behind the Curtain, a play by Zambia Army group, Green Buffaloes, which throws the raging war between investigative reporters and corrupt politicians to viewers for final verdict.