Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Malawi Cultural Centre

The closure of the French Cultural Centre which for the past 38 years was dependent on the French Embassy to Zambia and Malawi elicited a mourning that made me shudder with shame.
Unlike crying over divorce or death, the closure of the French Cultural Centre, if anything, should have made all of us celebrate.
Celebrate because, the centre’s existence was never in vain. The French’s stay in Chichiri in Blantyre should have been endearing, knowing what vast lessons had been left. With such knowledge, instead of writing mourning pieces or airing out woeful programmes for the closure we would have said:
Exit French Cultural Centre, Enter Malawi Cultural Centre.
I am aware that since the Centre had 19 staff members, including 3 full-time teachers of French and 2 part-time teachers, these would not like what is being said. But this is a different kind of perspective from where I am looking at the whole picture.
My Perspective intends to look at the two pronged mission for the centre which was to teach French language and to serve as the only cultural centre in Malawi.
The French Cultural Centre used to achieve all this by organising various events ranging from exhibitions to theatre, to concerts, poetry, gastronomy, cinema and sport throughout the year.
Of course, the reason I am writing this is on musical performance and to cap all the activities at the centre, they had what they used to call the Music Day, the Beaujolais Nouveau, on every 14th of July.
Most fellow country folks who are mourning its disappearance as well as the French themselves believed the Cultural Centre was the liveliest place in Malawi as far as cultural events are concerned.
You might be wondering why the French created a cultural centre in Malawi. To start with the culture of France and of the French people has been shaped by geography, by profound historical events, and by foreign and internal forces and groups.
According to available literature, France, and in particular Paris, has played an important role as a center of high culture and of decorative arts since the seventeenth century, first in Europe, and from the nineteenth century on, worldwide.
This explains why even when they had not colonized Malawi they still made a point to come and establish their cultural Mecca in Blantyre.
The fact that the French are often perceived as taking a great pride in their national identity and the positive achievements of France whose roots delve in "chauvinism" and cultural issues are more the reason they integrate it into the body of the politics than elsewhere.
To cut a long story short, the French decided to promote what was known as assimilation where their desire was to intertwine cultures of other people with their own with a view of dominating to show the greatness of their culture.
In the process, Malawi which has no regard to create concrete institution that can posit best way of perpetuating cultural practices
The Dr. Daniel Kachambas of this world, showed the world what they were capable of doing musically at the French Cultural centre which in March 2010 also brought the Kachambas’ grand-grand children under a banner ‘hidden talent’.
Malawi’s urban musicians, producers, DJs and fans as Hidden Talent Entertainment (HTE) members Renegade and Pilgrim were launching their mix tape ‘Renegade vs. Pilgrim’.
This is just one tinniest facet of all parts that made what the Centre became since it also had performances of international luminaries such as Angelique Kidjo.
Now as a country, how do we start building on the foundation that the French have left us?
How ironic, Malawi is musically and otherwise failing to display her own culture right here in Malawi and the whole country is failing to appreciate and learn from a European country that trekked to here to establish the same.
Since this is all ours now, I think this provides some fertile ground to start planting seeds of progress. We could start with a one-stop musical cultural centre.
Here, we could get to know who Dr. Kachamba was, what music Stonald Lungu played, how Michael Mukhitho Phiri managed a number instruments when churning out his music.
What drove the MBC and the Chichiri Queens? Why the Police Ochestra did make such a big name? How did Kalimba and Makasu conquer the international market?
This would also be the place to sample music from Ben Mankhamba, Agorosso, Wambali, Peter Mawanga and yes, Lucious Banda and all the latter artists currently hogging the limelight.
This could as well start by copying what French Cultural centre used to do to musicians and their fans. Malawi Cultural Centre I say.
Feedback: drummingpen@columnist.com

1 comment:

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