Nanzikambe Arts in drive to adapt Malawian folktales

After years of being engrossed in adaptations of foreign plays and books for stage drama, Nanzikambe Arts is beaming with confidence and uniqueness as it embarks on an exceptional project on adapting Malawian folktales for stage drama.

Speaking in an interview on Thursday, Nanzikambe Arts managing director Chris Nditani said the project is funded by the Rei Foundation Limited of New Zealand through the Malawi National Commission for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

The goal of the project is to ensure that the country’s culture is preserved and promoted on both local and international scenes.

Nanzikambe Arts during rehearsals of the adapted folktales

Said Nditani: “The project has some national importance as it is in tandem with other government driven initiatives as enshrined in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDs) II, the promotion of Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 1 on poverty eradication, SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth, SDG 9 on industry innovation and infrastructure and SDG 16 on peace and justice.

“Additionally, the project is in line with international conventions such as the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage and the protection and promotion of expressions of cultural diversity to which Malawi is a signatory. Furthermore, the project directly contributes to availability of materials to the education curriculum in Malawi in the teaching of Creative Arts as a subject.”

On the other hand, the one-year project, which officially kick-started this month, seeks to enhance artists’ growth in theatrical and culture-based creativity by adapting and endorsing Malawian folktales for the stage.

“The project will help artists to understand and appreciate the country’s cultural heritage through the arts and enhance the establishment of artistic partnerships across genres (story-telling, visual arts, singing and dancing and stage drama) within Malawi. Another important aspect is that it will contribute to materials towards the teaching of Malawi’s education curriculum in Creative Arts as a subject,” said Nditani.

For the past three years, the Malawi National Commission for UNESCO in conjunction with the Malawi National Library Service through the Rei Foundation Limited and Sony Corporation has been collecting and recording Malawian folktales nationwide. Therefore, the adapting them for stage drama is a subsequent project to authenticate and promote them.

Nanzikambe Arts also benefited from the funding support of the Malawi National Commission for UNESCO in 2008, when the organization received a grant to train upcoming and seasoned artists in contemporary theatre techniques, one key result of which has been the country being awash with a cadre of dramatists and drama outfits vibrantly operating on the local scene.

One of the Nanzikambe Actors Mphundu Mjumira said folktales adaptations will help to breathe life into Malawi’s culture. n

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