Malawi continues to be one place where being an artist barely pays off. Picture this scenario: the music of local ace Joe Gwaladi played from people’s expensive gadgets or in uptown pubs. But he may not remember the last time he received royalties from the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) or sold his soft copy file to owners of the gadget such as a Samsung Galaxy 7.
The same applies to local hit songs such as Lameki by Allan Namoko and Chinafuna M’bale by Lucky Stars.
They may be played from memory sticks or computers in different ceremonies yet the artists did not authorise sharing of their soft copy music.
What about creative paintings by local artists that are merely appreciated and never bought at uptown galleries?
It is against this intense disregard of the creators’ economic welfare which has prompted spoken word artist Q Malewezi to bemoan the plight of the country’s artists in his untitled poem.
The poem—which Q has shared on social media platforms such as Mingoli Movement’s WhatsApp group—goes like this:
I hear a song
from an expensive gadget
that the musician will never own/
I see a painting
in a well lit upmarket gallery
far from the township
with no electricity
where the artist lives.
Q—formerly member of defunct rap group Real Elements—said everyday struggles of Malawian artists was the inspiration for writing the poem.
“We value the art more than the artist,” he said, adding: “But art will travel, change lives and ultimately outlive the artist whose life was hardly changed by his or her creation.”
He added that he was still pondering on the title of the poem and that he will continue writing it for it is a timeless poem.