Introducing Umunthu Cultural Heritage

Traditional dances are part of our heritage. They are also an effective tool of imparting information to the masses. It is for this reason that Umunthu Cultural Heritage was formed. It is used to educate the rural masses about girls’ and women empowerment. Our Arts editor EDITH GONDWE caught up with Umunthu Cultural Heritage founder Peter Mafuta Kaunda for details.

Kaunda (L): We bring people together and celebrate culture

Q

: What prompted you to form Umunthu Cultural Heritage?

A

: I am Peter Mafuta Kaunda. I am a teacher by profession. After teaching in Mzimba for five years, I felt pity to see girls getting married early and getting pregnant because of some cultural practices. Sometimes they even got infected with HIV and Aids and drop out of school. Additionally, due to shortage of resources like school fees and uniform, the girls were not enjoying their time in school, thereby dropping out. Long distances to school have also contributed to girls dropping out of school. I have also observed old women and widows starving due to husbands who left them many years ago to look for greener pastures in South Africa, leaving them alone to fend for their families. Many also do now appreciate the importance of preserving the environment. This prompted me to form Umunthu Cultural Heritage.

Umunthu Cultural Heritage was formed on June 21 2017 but was launched on July 26 2019. It is not officially registered due to financial capacities but we are looking forward to registering within this year.

Q

: How do you link cultural heritage to girl and women empowerment, climate change, child labour and child abuse?

A

: Through this cultural heritage, we bring people together and celebrate culture through traditional dances. As this is happening, we entertain the masses and simultaneously impart information on the issues raised above through song, poems, storytelling, comedies and drama about the importance of education to girls who can be independent in the future and can develop the nation at large.

We, however, make sure that the songs and all activities have a cultural element in them.

Q

: In the Umunthu Cultural Heritage, who are the performers of the traditional dances?

A

: The performers of Umunthu Cultural Heritage are Peter Kaunda, Albert Manda, Fiskani Hango, Linda Nyirenda, Lonely Jere, Chrissy Jere, Leah Nkhana, Davie Kaunda, Chrissy Jere, Chimwemwe Longwe, Guta Manda, Grace Chihana, Mirriam Nyirenda and Shadreck Jere.

Q

: Tell us about your background? What were you doing before you went to university?

A

: Before I went to university I was selling curios to tourists. I had a shop at Ekwendeni opposite the police station. Then I applied for a teaching course at Karonga Teachers Training College. I graduated in 2013. In 2014, I started teaching at Katula Primary School then in 2016 started upgrading at DMI University Lilongwe campus majoring in Mathematics and Biology.

Q

: How does Umunthu Cultural Heritage operate?

A

: We work as a team with every member taking a role.

We are a non-profit organisation, hence; to find resources is hard. We have found a piece of land to grow maize, groundnuts and start rearing pigs and chickens which can be used to finance our operations. We are looking forward to working with like-minded organisations in future.

So far we have conducted some cultural events where we have vimbuza and ingoma traditional dances, poems, storytelling, comedies, folktales, traditional songs, among others. Money collected from these events help in the running of the organisation.

Q: How did you start operating bearing in mind that rural areas have traditional leaders who lead the people?

A: We started with meetings with traditional leaders at Katula in Mzimba. After we introduced our mission, they gave us their blessings to operate in their area. So, our first assignment was an event where we performed traditional dances such as vimbuza, poems and comedies, and music, among others. Patrons paid K200 each and from that we raised money which we used to but soap and salt and distributed to old women and widows. We managed to support 15 women and it was shocking to see the level of poverty and starvation in the village. We are planning to launch the organisation in Mzuzu. During the event we also hope to raise more money so that we are officially registered.

Q

: How regularly do you plan to be conducting these cultural activities?

A

: It depends on resources but we usually conduct these cultural activities once in two months.

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