For months, the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) has been overseeing an art competition, Tikonzekere Arts Contest.
The contest centred around the theme: Communicating Flood Vulnerability Reduction Good Practices Through Arts in Malawi. Artists were required to come up with creations in form of drawings, music, poems, short videos and short stories that will help stir and sustain the department about good disaster response practices.
From July early this year, when the competition was formally launched at Kwa Haraba Arts Café in Blantyre, artists from across the country have battled to see who is going to come top in weaving the most appealing and effective messages around the given theme.
After the initial stages were done with, the entries had to undergo the quarter-final, semi-final stages and finally the winners were announced last Sunday during an event held at Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must) in Thyolo.
Bob Alexander, a revered name in the music world, was tasked with overseeing the technical aspects of the contest. He, together with a team of judges comprising some of the respected names in various fields ensured that the entries had all the tenets qualifying them to be called good art.
By Sunday evening, each category had produced top three winners. The first of the pack went home K150 000 richer and those on second positions carted home K100 000 while the third-placed got a consolation of K50 000. Not very bad.
In case you are wondering why I am making this development part of my entry. It is not every day that art and arts players are involved in what is perceived as serious issues such as disasters. A majority would rather condemn arts to the less-serious themes.
But art is human. Disasters also have a human face. Surely, for the power that arts possess, there is something that it can do to help.
With the frequency and increased magnitude that floods have hit Malawi over the years, it is only right that all exhaustive remedial measures are engaged as we are still chasing up what can work best and faster for us to mitigate the damage which is slowly getting out of hand.
According to Dodma, a recovery framework that was launched in October shows that the country requires more than $600 million to fully recover from this year’s floods. This is happening at a time when the country is yet to recover from the 2015 floods, therefore it is important to put to emphasis on flood risk reduction if we are to build resilience as a nation.
Those facts clearly show how dire our situation is. Therefore, the biggest mistake that we can commit is to limit ourselves in trying out what method we can trigger to get ourselves in that desirable state.
Dodma director of disaster response and recovery Harris Kachale in his remarks on Sunday said it is the hope of the department that through the songs, poems, drawings, short stories will be created to encourage to start discussing issues concerning disaster risk at household and community level.
Art works such as music, poems, short stories, documentaries and drawings have the ability to get audiences hooked up for long because of their creative nature. And their lifespan is long. The creations that have been made this year will have the same weight in appeal even in the next two years.
It is sad some organisations, individuals and departments completely leave out arts in the implementation of their various projects and programmes. There is no better way of instituting an effective communication strategy without an infusion of the arts.
On this end, let me commend Dodma for leading the way in making the arts core to their strategy in trying to mitigate the impact of disasters or dealing away with them. It was therefore assuring when Kachale announced that the department will make the contest and annual event. n