* He presided over the 2023 Blantyre City Arts & Cultural Festival at the Kamuzu Upper Stadium
* MW2063 national vision emphasizes on mindset, which can be easily achieved through celebration of various cultures
* Arts and culture consolidates national heritage on top of providing entertainment, education and information necessary for the new generation
By Arnold Namanja, MANA
A National Arts & Heritage Council Bill is expected to be tabled soon in Parliament so that all the activities to do with arts and culture should not only be regulated but also be done in keeping with the law.
This was said by Deputy Minister of Local Government, Unity & Culture, Owen Chomanika on Saturday when he presided over the 2023 Blantyre City Arts & Cultural Festival at the Kamuzu Upper Stadium which was organized by Blantyre City Council in collaboration with Blantyre Arts Festival (BAF).
Chomanika said that government would remain committed to supporting arts and culture, adding that the MW2063 national vision emphasizes on mindset, which can be easily achieved through celebration of various cultures.
He underscored the importance of promoting arts and culture considering that they have potential to bringing people of diverse backgrounds together.
Chomanika said it was ideal and relevant to promote different arts and culture because this consolidates national heritage on top of providing entertainment, education and information necessary for the new generation.
“Such arts and cultural festivals serve several objectives — they inspire all of us to appreciate culture and are also a tool for unity,” Chomanika said, adding it was important for all other City Councils in the country to emulate Blantyre City Council’s example.
He commended the Council for supporting the festival considering the theme of the event which was to encourage Malawians in general and residents of BCC in particular to take leading role on issues of climate change.
“The initiative by Blantyre City Council needs to be applauded in view of the magnitude of the Tropical Cyclone Freddy disaster, which affected most districts in the Southern Region, with Blantyre City being worst hit.
“This is a timely intervention to help residents take part in conserving the environment to avoid a repeat of what happened early this year,” he said of the festival held under the theme: ‘Celebrating Arts, Culture & Unity to Promote Participatory Municipal Management’.
Blantyre City Deputy Mayor, Councillor Fanny Baraba Kanojelera said the City conducts such festivals because of the long term benefits they bring to the local authority in terms of both revenue generation and building strategic partnerships.
“We cherish festivals of this nature because culture and arts blend so well,” he said, while encouraging city residents to patronize such events.
Founder & Director of Blantyre Arts Festival, Thomas Chibambo said they decided to partner with Blantyre City Council in organizing the festival in a bid to make the event more inclusive and effective in terms of reaching out to a wider audience.
“This year’s festival is bigger and better,” he said. “We have involved local and international artists to make it more attractive,” Chibambo said.
The festival was spiced by a street carnival from the Civic Centre to the Upper Stadium where other activities included music performances by the Nyau King, Tay Grin; Skeffa ‘The Jamming Machine’ Chimoto; upcoming artist Gibo Pearson on top of cultural dances, poetry, theatre and visual arts.
Meanwhile, Minister of Local Government, Unity & Culture, Richard Chimwendo Banda was in Rumphi where he presided over Gonapamuhanya Cultural Festival at Bolero.
He commended the hosting of annual cultural festivals by different tribal groupings in the country, saying it is helping to keep cultural traditions alive.
He said through cultural festivals, the old generation is passing on to the young generation traditional ways of living which include foods, languages, dances, songs and artefacts.
“Preservation of culture requires people to come together and showcase their traditional practices and values,” he said. “I am, therefore, happy as Minister responsible for culture, to see various tribes organizing annual cultural festivals,” Chimwendo Banda said.
He, however, cautioned organisers against using such cultural events to promote divisions and advance their political party agenda — stressing that in a democracy, people should be free to associate themselves with any political party of their choice, regardless of their tribal or regional backgrounds.
“When you do politics, there is temptation to start dividing people according to their tribes, however that should not be the case. There should be no one trying to bring confusion or dividing Malawians along tribal or regional lines,” he said.
National Coordinator for Tumbuka Heritage, Henry Mfune lamented persistent disputes over Chikulamayembe chieftaincy between Joseph Bongololo Gondwe and Mtima Gondwe’s camps, despite a court verdict that confirmed Joseph Bongololo as the rightful heir to the throne.
He said the chieftaincy wrangles were counterproductive and spoiling Tumbukas’ legacy, saying Tumbuka people have been known to be peace loving.
In his remarks, Bongololo Gondwe, the current Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe, extended an olive branch to Mtima Gondwe and his sympathisers, saying as a fatherly figure, he would like to see Tumbukas in the district united and living peacefully together.
Other high profile dignitaries that graced the cultural festival included former Vice-President, Khumbo Kachali; Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) president, Enock Chihana and Senior Chief Lundu.—Reporting from Bolero by Yamikani Sabola, MANA