As per tradition at the beginning of every year, Weekender returns with an analysis to stocktake how arts associations in the country have performed in the just ended year; the challenges, successes, lessons learnt and future plans.
Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM)
The same old songs about piracy, monopolised music distribution, lack of recording companies and shortage of live show equipment and appropriate venues for performances were some of the factors that characterised the music industry in 2011.
Undivided efforts to make music a lucrative economic endeavour in this age of high unemployment rates also remains a distant dream, as their dedication to end their woes showed little dividends.
Mam has also failed to register many secular female artists, thereby making the sector to remain a male-dominated field on top of failing to bridge in the gap between gospel and secular musicians.
In an interview, the association's president Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango admitted that all was not rosy in 2011.
"Since we were new in office, it took our members some time to understand and develop trust in us. For your own information, when we took over office, we had only K72. So we had to start from zero.
"But despite that, we managed to hold meetings with our members in all our three chapters besides meeting with culture ministry officials. We had also awards for upcoming musicians in all three chapters," he said.
Mhango, however promised to make 2012 a year of success, among others by having an audience with the President Bingu wa Mutharika.
"We are set to achieve a lot of greater things in 2012 by among others introducing annual awards for both budding and old musicians. We are also planning a big fundraising show on top of recording two joint albums featuring both new and established musicians at our MAM studios," he said.
On female participation, Mhango said among other activities, they have organised elections for the association's women desk this at the end of this month before holding its Annual General Assembly in July.
"We will also host our counterparts from various music associations from across Africa such as Zambia, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe, so that we should share ideas on how our friends from other countries do it," he said.
Malawi Writers Union (Mawu)
Mawu continues to sail through troubled waters. The once mighty union has turned into an idle entity with nothing to show on the ground apart from a single room office and computer.
In an interview, the union's publicity secretary Christopher Chitukula said the body did not perform to its expectations due to lack of resources to implement programs and donor apathy.
Chitukula urged government and the corporate world to support writers in the country as is the case in other countries such as Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.
But not all has been lost as Chitukuta noted: "Despite financial constraints that rocked our union, we had some success stories such as launch of our poetry anthology, trainings, the FMB literary award and increased membership."
Way forward? We are planning to double our efforts and promote transparency to woo as many writers and donors. We are also planning to have a lot of writers' gatherings and forums on top of reviving the publishing industry."
Recently, the union's president Sambalikagwa Mvona promised to introduce a writer's series on MBC TV, a Maravi book series with Montfort media, book manuscripts, book launches and writing competitions.
Theatre Association of Malawi
The year 2011 had been another barren one for local actors, with the same old songs about death of both English and Chichewa drama. The association also failed to bring back the old memories of Association for Teaching English in Malawi (Atem) English National Drama Festival.
Challenges? According to the association's president Ian Chisekula, they were unable to access funding from both government and the corporate world due to among others, absence of National Arts Council. "The only a funding we had was K4million from Cosoma which we used to organise drama competitions in several districts of the country such as Chikhwawa, Chitipa, Nkhota kota, Karonga and Salima as one way of unearthing raw talent in the rural areas.
"We are also planning to introduce a national trophy this year for actors and actresses on top of mobilising resources for training our members," he said.
Chisekula also points at the lack of audience in theatre events as detrimental to the development of drama in the country. "English theatre audience is low. Deaths robbed us of theatre gurus like Du Chisiza Jr, Gertrude Kamkwatira which also robbed us of our invaluable talent. People defined the genre by their names and now they think there are no good players, which is an insult to the theatre fraternity.
"We have now embarked on an audience building exercise starting from secondary schools, so that pupils should appreciate theatre at an early stage, and we are hopeful that we will never lose this audience again," he said.
Poetry Association of Malawi
While some countries in the world greatly treasure poets and poetry in general, in Malawi the art is fading in both quality and quantity at a very fast rate. There was a time when this country had creative poets, but now the country is losing its poetic magic.
The sudden decline of poetry in the country is said to be due to the dwindling education standards, lack of reading culture, lack of competition and awards, the boom in technology, lack of literary workshops and critic's forums, among others.
Few months ago, the association's president Felix Njonjonjo Katsoka admitted that they have done nothing worth mentioning to live up to their mandate, due to their poor financial stand.
"We are the only art institution in the country which does not receive funding from government or Cosoma on top of having least membership, so this had been a stumbling block towards our mission and vision.
"We have survived throughout the past decade by the grace of God. We have been surviving through membership fee and some well-wishers within the association," he said.
Way forward? We want to put in place structures that can entice support from the corporate world. After that, we will engage experienced poets to train budding poets because these veterans have got necessary skills which no classroom can offer, so if these skills cannot be imparted to the current generation now it will be lost forever."
Visual Arts Association of Malawi
Although Malawi is endowed with scores of visual artistic creations sadly there are few galleries and rare exhibitions. Save for a few tourists and foreigners, Malawians themselves don't buy art works because of the high cost of the exhibition.
Visual Arts Association of Malawi president for the South Region Peter Chikondi admitted that the industry is not progressing.
"Although there are some artists who are prospering on an individual basis, as an association we have failed to take the art to greater heights due to financial constraints on top of failing to unearth raw talent in the rural areas," he said.
On the way forward?
"Our plan is to lobby government and all Malawians to start appreciating this creativity because once we do that our artists will be motivated and even their living standards will improve. Currently, we only depend on tourists because we don't export our producers. We are not a tourism sector, but we are trying to promote the country through fine art.
"We also want to initiative several deliberate efforts that would benefit the artists themselves and country as well. We want to ensure that we are prospering as any other art field such as music and theatre.