Malawi is currently hosting the International Expo where among other things the country is selling its places of attraction, culture, food and warmth of its people. The expo started yesterday and ends tomorrow. Our Arts editor EDITH GONDWE chats with interim coordinator for Malawi Cultural Heritage Association (Macha) to find out their role at the event.
: What should we expect from Macha at this year’s expo?
: It has been dificult to organise proper participation of Macha at this year’s expo because of we are not yet registered. However we lobbied with the department of Tourism to allow Sungani Zakwathu Cultural Heritage Association, an NGO which I head as Executive and Artistic director to showcase Gulewamkulu, Thocopa and Ingoma dances then we will also feature Ntchuwa or long Bawo, Phada and pounding skills by women. Its is alo important to note that since cultural heritage organisations liase directly with the department of tourism I am not sure which ones are exhibiting. But I know that Maseko Ngoni, Chewa Heritage Foundation and Muhlako wa Ahlomwe have pavilions at the event.
: How important is it for us as a country to include the cultural element at the expo?
: Culture is a fundamental part of the tourism experience and its importance is growing. Today, cultural tourism is one of the largest and fastest developing global tourism markets and most tourists choose their destinations based on the destination’s cultural offering. International tourists choose their destinations based on the cultural offering of the place. International tourists are increasingly attracted by intangible factors such as the atmosphere of a place, its association with famous people, ideas or events-in other words a place’s culture, history and traditions.
Cultural Heritage enriches peoples lives and provides inspiration for their cultural and creative industries. Top tourists destinations help to generate economic growth, employment and social cohesion. The combination of culture and tourism can be a powerful driver of economic activity. But the benefits of closer ties between culture and tourism go beyond economic returns; travelling to experience the culture of others both domestic and international, as well as gaining a direct appreciation of cultural diversity, establishing new cultural ties, and helping to keep heritage alive.
In order to ensure this, we need a sustainable approach, which balances the need to boost economic growth and tourism on the one hand, and the preservation of artifacts, historical sites and local traditions.
It is for this reason that we keep lobbying with different stakeholders in the public and private sector to support the promotion of cultural tourism in Malawi. And we think this tourism expo is one important strategic platform to promote this agenda because it is expected that many domestic and international visitors will patronize the expo for the three days.
Going forward, Macha will actively take part through exhibitions, traditional dances and raise awareness about Malawi’s cultures.
: Anything else to add?
: Europe is a key cultural tourism destination and we need to learn from them. This is due to its incomparable cultural heritage which includes museums, archaeological sites, historical cities and industrial sites as well as music and gastronomy (style of preparing food). As Malawi and Africa, we can borrow a leaf from that to aggressively develop this cultural tourism sector which experts say Africa has a huge potential for development at the moment.
So showcasing part of this rich treasure during the expo period would give a hint to the domestic and international visitors what they would likely access if they decide to come and visit our respective communities across the country in as far as cultural tourism is concerned. n