Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Friday, 16 November 2012

Too Many Arts festivals for Malawi

Malawi has to rethink her position in as far as the festivals, which are more musical events than just arts, are concerned.
It is just too much for Malawi considering that in countries where their music or arts industries are very advanced they either have one major event or may be three or four spread across the year.
Look at what has been happening in Malawi this year alone: ‘Macfest Festival’, ‘Mwezi Wawala Festival’, ‘Blantyre Arts Festival’, ‘Sand Festival’, ‘Moonrock Festival’ and the COSOMA initiated festival.
Then there is Lake of Stars which is the de facto mother of all these events.
According to World Music Network there are 24 top festivals that take place in Africa across the year and the only recognised one for Malawi is the Lake of Stars – and you know why.
In January for example it is Mali’s ‘Festival in the Desert’ while a month later in Zanzibar there is ‘Sauti za Busara Music Festival’. In the same month Mali also hosts ‘Festival on the Niger’.
 In March ‘Festival Boulevard’ takes place in Morocco, while in April we have at least four festivals taking place in different countries like the famous ‘Cape Town Jazz Festival’ in South Africa, ‘Jazz a Carthage’ in Tunisia and ‘Kriol Jazz Festival’ in Cape Verde.
Between April and May there is also Harare International Festival of the Arts in Zimbabwe while in May we also have three which are ‘Bushfire Festival’ Swaziland, ‘Festival Mawazine’ of Morocco and Saint-Louis Jazz Festival of Senegal.
In June three such events do also happen and these include ‘Essaouira Gnaoua Music Festival’ in Morocco, ‘Festival Gabao’ in Gabaon, ‘Festival of World Sacred Music’. Between June and July there is ‘Grahamstown Festival’ in South Africa, while in Morocco there is ‘Festival Timitar’ in July.
In August there is ‘Sakifo Musik Festival’ in Reunion, and in September ‘Bayimba Festival’ in Uganda. Between September and October there is ‘Pan African Space Station’ in South Africa but in October there is ‘Festival Milatsika’ in Mayotte, of our own course ‘Lake of Stars’, Madagascar’s ‘Madajazzcar’ and Waga Hiphop Festival in Burkina Faso. 
There is nothing in November, but in December there is Fest’ Horn in Djibouti.
If you compare our own festivals with a critical eye, you will discover that its general organisation is done haphazardly and to an extent it does not do well to the targeted consumers – or are there some big profits that organisers of such events do reap-off that I am not aware of.
And could it be as a result of such profits that you will find failure for organisers to speak one language and have a well thought of, programme of events.
Because if you check when some of these festivals took place, you will discover it was on the same days. 
Already, in events like these ones, patronage is a challenge because on the scale of wealth in this country, the least are on the higher side to afford going to such events.
Now imagine if this small number can now be competed for by different festivals organised over the same period.
I am not sure how these people plan these things, and if at all government’s ministry of tourism which endorses all of them looks at the events the way I am now.
Imagine if to organise each event organisers require K3 million, already we are talking of an average of K21 million.
Now, imagine if the Department of tourisms was rightly advising all these coming up with these events, to come up with one event for example, can you envisage what a big event that one could be?
The challenge is going down to establish reasons why such events take place after all.
For example, ‘Lake of Stars’ was mooted to offer a two way benefit to the nation, thus helping out the Malawi economy as well as promoting Malawi musicians. I believe the same is the reason why all these festivals take place.
Lakeshore districts attract tourists especially those that come to admire the beautiful Lake Malawi and its characteristic beaches. My take is that as a value addition undertaking to this naturalistic beauty, events like the festivals were started. 
But strangely so, organisers of the event have never come clean, clean in the sense of publishing in the media how much money they rake in when organising an event like this one.
Malawi is equally abused when the organisers try to satisfy their gluttonous egos by not only failing to do good to the country, but also failure to make local artists show the benefits accrued ever since they started partaking in the lake of stars event.
In the absence of published audited information on how the event is run from the word go to the end, I am bound to speculate that our government will never awaken from its slumber of gullibility and look with both eyes, to establish what it is that is not done right.
Honestly, government should not just get its satisfaction with the sugar coated manoeuvre of some of these imported ventures; it needs to go deeper into issues so that the country is not abused.

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