One of the greatest African scholars, Wole Soyinka, once argued that the greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism. Fortunately for Malawian theatre, there is some freedom not only to criticise, but to associate.
Hence, in consolidating these views and building a forum through which these divergent voices can be heard, theatre critics across the southern African region have formed an association. Local critics have also come together to form their own assembly.
Mufunanji Magalasi, who has championed the formation of both associations, said the intention is to enable critics to share and support each other in their work. Both associations fall under the International Association for Theatre Critics (IATC).
“The way Unesco works, people from the same regions support each other for things to happen. A lone country becomes a lone voice submerged in the cacophony of louder big voices,” said Magalasi.
He said that members of the association will be issued with IATC cards which allow them discounts and sometimes free entry into shows for member countries visited.
“Critics will be invited to Unesco and IATC Headquarters in Paris for a general assembly every two years. A national association member state sends two delegates to attend. In the meantime, activities in form of congresses, conferences, symposia,” said Magalasi.
He added that through the associations, critics will reflect on the theatre practice in a constructive way by making the critics themselves to reflect as individuals and as a group on how they are responding to theatre practice in Malawi.
“But with the southern African network and the international membership, we become part of the global village in which we will also learn how others are responding to practices in parts of the world,” said Magalasi.
He explained that the association will help foster quality of theatre practice so that it comes at par with international standards not only for critics but for the theatre practice itself.
The IATC has a membership of more than two thousand theatre critics across 50 countries. The non-profit making, non-governmental organisation, which benefits under Statute B of Unesco was founded in Paris in 1956. It was established with the purpose of bringing together theatre critics in order to promote international cooperation.
According to the official website of IATC www.aict-iatc.org, its principal aims are to foster theatre criticism as a discipline and to contribute to the development of its methodological bases; to protect the ethical and professional interests of theatre critics and to promote the common rights of all its members; and to contribute to reciprocal awareness and understanding between cultures by encouraging international meetings and exchanges in the field of theatre in general.