Just when the flickers of hope were dying, the Department of Arts and Crafts in Malawi has opened doors for artists to take part in the maiden Malawi Arts and Culture Festival in Lilongwe in May.
The festival was envisioned to take place last year, but has been shifted to May. In August, director of the Department of Arts and Culture Elizabeth Gomani-Chindevu attributed the postponement to lack of funding and preparedness.
However, contracts signed by Isaac Chingota, performing arts officer in the arts and crafts department, shows it will be back from May 18 to 20Â this year.
If the dream festival comes true this time, residents and visitors in the capital are in for overdue encounters with top fine and performing artistsâ€”except Soldier Lucius Banda, who was banned on state-run MBC radios and televisionâ€”at Crossroads Hotel and Civo Stadium.
Soldier could not be reached for comment on his omission, but he is well-known for his headline roles at world-class Lake of Stars Festival in honour of Lake Malawi’s tourism potential.
In an interview, Chindebvu said it was too premature to comment on the taxpayer-bankrolled festival as the department is expecting to get permission next week.
However, documents sent to participating artists show the festival will open on Friday morning with free acts by reggae star Sally Nyundo, Kufewa Acrobatic Arts Display, National Dance Troupe,Â Chindime and Samalani comedy duo, Valimba Music from the Shire Valley and Ndingo Brothers Band atÂ Civo Stadium.
The programme runs throughout the afternoon. The Bamboo, Ruo and Foya rooms at the Crossroads will be home to a static art exhibition bringing together book displays, visual arts and fashion creations. Meanwhile, other art pilgrims will be watching K500-per-head performances by Kwathu Drama Group, Kukaya Cultural Troup, Solomonic Peacocks as well as spoken word gurus author Maureen Mlenga and Nzeru Nkupangwa veteran Dyson Gonthi in the hotel’s Sapitwa Hall.
In the meantime, Chichiri Dance Troupe will be at Crosssroads Auditorium with Villante Ndasowa’s film Mystery Mountain and Michael Usi’s Watch Out. The opening day will close with a concert by last year’s breakthrough musicians Skeffa Chimoto and Maskal (real name Masiye Kansaru) inÂ Sapitwa Hall.
The static exhibitions will be on throughout the festival span, while the rest of the acts will leave the stage to a poolside traditional cuisine, MacFest inauguration ceremony, Mzuzu’s Onenness Theatre Company, AgolosoÂ and Tafika ArtsÂ Group at Crossroads on Saturday.
Poetry, drama, music, dances
Typical of a diversity of arts the festival promises, the programme shows noon hoursÂ will be dominated by traditional dances such as samba and gule wamkulu while poetry lovers will be paying homage to Nyamalikiti and Chigo Gondwe-Chokani in the auditorium. The poets will leave the stage to Waliko Makhala’s folk music and Shemu Joyah’s award-winning film Seasons of a Life, while gig-goers will be heading to Sapitwa for a rare bash with 2008 Music Crossroads champions-Body, Mind and Soul, Edgar ndi Davis and Giddes Chalamanda.
Apart from the cross-cutting exhibition, Sunday is forecast to be hotter than just music by Chileka-based reggae kings, Black Missionaries. The itinerary shows festival-goers will wind up with the refugee group Amahoro Drummers from Rwanda, Amitofo acrobatics displays and Dan Bells at Civo Stadium.Â At Crossroads, Q (Qabaniso Malewezi) will lead a spoken word session with Mike Zulu and Chikolopa Drama Group.
Civo will also host a gospel encounter between the most decorated diva Ethel Kamwendo-Banda and reigning bestseller Thocco Katimba just as Crossroads will close its doors with Maraphi from Phalombe and the indisputable theatre supremos, Nanzikambe Arts, who last year were quoted as calling on government to leave the role of organising festival to the private sector and concentrate on fashioning policies for arts and culture.
Poor choice of venues
In an interview, Nanzikambe managing director Chris Nditani confirmed being invited to the festival, but expressed reservations with the choice of venues.
“Both the hotel and the stadium are not art-friendly. Government could have used the festival to make idling open theatre near the Capital Hill and Kamuzu Institute for Sports in Kawale Township which are more convenient to the artists and our fans,” said Nditani.
The views were shared by some of the 40-plus invited acts.